Side-by-side, Hobart and Merrillville share the U.S. Hwy. 30 and I-65 corridors. Connection to the I-80 corridor from those two routes has created a commercial, industrial, and residential boom for both.
The trend is upward for both communities, as their administrations work with developers to plan for smart growth.
Commercial construction boom
Becknell Industrial is welcoming Wynright Corp. to its 200-plus acre business park in Hobart. “This is a $26 million investment that brings 580 jobs to our region,” said Mayor Brian Snedecor. Wynright makes materials handling systems for the logistics industry. The new building will have more than 320,000 square feet of space, with groundbreaking this fall.
“The company plans to hire engineering, administrative, and manufacturing employees,” Snedecor said. “We’re excited for the economic impact this development will have for our city.”
Off I-65 and 61st Avenue, ITR America will expand at its NorthWind Crossings site. The distributor of heavy machinery equipment is doubling its size with a $5 million, 90,000-square-foot building next to its current one in the business park.
Since Brick House Bar and Grill purchased the Art Theatre downtown, the transformation has been well received. “Between live music, old movies, 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show,' and other unique offerings, the downtown has seen new life,” Snedecor said.
More than $19 million in commercial construction permits have been issued in Merrillville this year, according to Planning Director Shelia Shine. Elliott Construction LLC is putting up a building at 8180 Taney Place, and Rhodes Industrial Property is developing a building at 4000 W. 82nd Court.
“We are engaged with several developers on various parcels throughout the town,” said Town Manager Pat Reardon. “These are two examples of the new development occurring. We also have Chazz Enterprises constructing a $4 million dental building at 8000 Lincoln Highway.”
More than a dozen businesses in Merrillville are expanding, including Bosak Motors, Belle Tire, and GSA Census. “Between remodeling, expansion, and new construction, we have 20 development projects underway,” Reardon said.
The planned Merrillville Recreation Center now has up to $24 million from approved tax increment financing bonds, according to Reardon. The 90,000-square-foot rec center will be built on the old Y&W drive-in grounds on Broadway to accommodate sports, recreation, and exercise.
Merrillville’s Engineering department will allocate $1.5 million of local revenue to pave 25 side streets, according to director Steve King.
“Steve also helped us acquire over $1 million in Community Crossings Grant money from the state,” said Reardon. “With matching funds allocated by the Town Council, we’re repaving Old Lincoln Highway from the town limits eastward to County Line Road.”
Whitcomb Street will also be repaved from U.S. 30 to Chase Street. “When businesses look at entering or expanding in a community, the infrastructure is high on the priority list,” Reardon said. “Street maintenance and other infrastructure work is critical to making Merrillville a top choice.”
Hobart allocated $3 million for Third Street, and another $6.5 million for the Third Street bridge. “These are part of our downtown infrastructure work, designed to beautify the Historic District and make it more pedestrian friendly,” said Snedecor. “The project also includes streetscape upgrades that include new sidewalks.”
The city’s façade program has been successful. Twenty-five "businesses have used the façade program to beautify their storefronts,” said Snedecor. “Our downtown had quite a lot of aging infrastructure, and we wanted to be part of the resolution. The façade program has been a great incentive for business owners.”
Storm and sewer projects to replace aging pipe also are underway throughout the city.
“When businesses talk to us about relocating to Merrillville, the subject of our school system always comes up,” Reardon said. “Developers need to know that the workers they attract will find the education system solid for their children.”
The Town Council and School Corporation have put great effort into improving the school system. The elementary schools, led by John Wood (7/10 in GreatSchools rankings) and Jonas Salk (7/10), have shown steady improvement the last four years.
“Our community is hard at work making all of our schools a model of quality, valuable education,” Reardon said.
Liberty Elementary (8/10) and Joan Martin (7/10) lead the way for the seven public schools in Hobart. Both the middle and high schools have shown improvement the last three years. “We aspire to offer a quality education to all of our students,” Snedecor said.
A new elementary school under construction at 52 N. Wisconsin St., is expected to open for the 2020-21 school year. The $18 million project will result in a 74,000-square-foot building with 24 classrooms to accommodate 720 students. Two of the classrooms will be for special education and two more will be intervention rooms.
Students from Ridge View Elementary will move to the new school, along with some students from Joan Martin. The Ridge View building will be repurposed by the school corporation.
Five subdivisions are under development in Hobart, with more than 100 lots available and several homes under construction. Subdivisions include Cressmoor Estates, Golf Creek Estates, Barrington Ridge, and the Lake George Villas and Vistas.
“We are also working with developers to create 400 single-family homes on 60 acres currently owned by the city,” Snedecor said. “The property, off 61st Avenue, will be able to feature larger homes and lots. With our proximity to Chicago, we are a very attractive location to put down family roots.”
Currently, 53 single-family homes are under construction in Merrillville, with another 20 townhomes in development.
“We have some very exciting future development coming to fruition,” Reardon said. “Savannah Cove, located on the corner of 73rd and Grant, will feature 72 new luxury duplexes. That project will break ground very soon.”
Reardon also shared news about a new development at 9047 Connecticut St. “Saxon Partners will develop four multistory apartment buildings designed to attract millennials and young professionals,” he said. “The close proximity to the (Methodist) hospital should provide a great attraction.”