The latest attraction in Gary's Miller neighborhood, one of Northwest Indiana's biggest arts and culinary hubs, will be a bocce ball court.
This summer, the lakefront neighborhood should get a new bocce ball court downtown and a new events space east of Lake Street, Miller Business Association President George Rogge said. The hope is to draw more people to the artsy Gary neighborhood on the Lake Michigan lakeshore.
"When people come to Miller, that's how we get our residents," Rogge said. "People from Chicago come, see how nice it is by the lake, and find out they can buy a house for $120,000. They say, 'I'll take one," and have a second home here."
Bocce is an Italian sport that's similar to bowling, in which balls are rolled toward a smaller target ball on the other side of the court. Rogge came up with the idea for a court in Miller after seeing their popularity at Blind Owl Brewery in Indianapolis and at Greenbush Brewing in southwest Michigan.
He plans to install one this summer in a vacant lot on Lake Street next to the Miller Bakery Cafe, by the cafe's new outdoor patio. The parklike space would displace a fence with a Jackson 5 mural painted by Felix "Flex" Maldonado last summer, but which has since started fading and flaking.
Anyone wishing to play could bring his or her own balls or rent them from inside the Miller Bakery Cafe, for a yet-to-be-determined price. Some breweries and restaurants charge about $10 an hour.
New outdoor patios at Miller Bakery Cafe and the Vibrations juice bar also give Miller the opportunity to move street festivals like First Friday and Fest on the First from Lake Street to the alley just east of Lake Street, Rogge said. The outdoor seating and out-of-the-way location make it a better fit for such events, and Lake Street would no longer have to be blocked off.
"We can't have our patios on the sidewalk like Chicago because it's too narrow," he said. "We have our patios in the alley."
The city is looking at potential improvements, including paving the alley and installing a sound stage for living music.
Miller, which added a Nelson Algren pocket park on Lake Street last summer, is additionally planning to open a museum in honor of the famous writer who once lived there in the basement of the Indiana Landmarks building this summer.