CHESTERTON — Large land moving equipment has begun remolding 130 acres of former farmland on the town's far east side into the largest residential development this small community has seen in at least modern times.
The Easton Park project, which has been more than 10 years in the making, already has literally changed the shape of the town and will continue having an impact as a variety of single-family homes begin popping up on its 346 lots.
Town Manager Bernie Doyle said this project, and to a lesser extent, a few other smaller residential developments underway, are feeding a strong demand for housing in Chesterton.
The town's population grew by 24 percent to just more than 13,000 at the time of the last census and he expects to see that type of growth in the 2020 count.
"I see us meeting, if not exceeding that," Doyle said.
The Easton Park project is being developed by ATG Real Estate Development of Highland, whose portfolio includes the White Oak Estates residential development in Munster and the upscale commercial building visible at Interstate 94 and Kennedy Avenue, said Kathy Harris, ATG vice president of development.
Easton Park is immediately east of the intersection of County Road 250 East and Porter Avenue. It was annexed by the town 10 years ago, creating a distinctive bulge in the community's eastern border that remains today.
"They annexed it with this project in mind," Harris said.
The firm continued working with the town to have the property rezoned as a planned unit development, which allows for multiple uses at a single site, she said. All 346 lots are being used for residential development, but there will be a variety of homes and lot types offered.
The development will offer 74 villa-style lots on its northwest side, which will differ from the other single-family homes in that the structures and lots will be smaller, and snow removal and lawn care will be provided, Harris said.
The villa portion of the development targets first-time homebuyers and those seeking to downsize later in life, she said.
There are 57 villas among the 99 lots making up the first phase of the development, Harris said. The balance of the home sites will feature minimum buildings requirements of 1,800 square feet for ranches, 2,000 square feet for one-and-a-half story homes and 2,200 square feet for two-story homes.
"We believe its going to appeal to a multi-sector of homebuyers," Harris said.
The rolling site also will feature more than 30 acres of natural spaces, including the preserved forest and wetland areas, ponds and walking path of approximately one-third of a mile, she said. It will be developed over six phases, with home construction beginning by October.
ATG is also committed to helping the town by establishing a "significant" park on its east side with a donation of 20 acres as a cornerstone, Harris said. The public park will be close to, but not part of the Easton Park development.
Doyle said the town has worked closely with developers to assure that all planning requirements were met. Officials will continue monitoring traffic and other impacts of growth when construction gets under way.
The town has what modern planners call "primacy of place," he said, which is a new term for quality of life. These pluses include its proximity to Lake Michigan and Chicago, affordability, low crime rate, quality schools, an historic downtown area and neighborhoods versus subdivisions.
"People look out for each other," he said.