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MUNSTER — Springhill Suites at Marriott is up and running to great reviews at Centennial Village along Calumet Avenue, town officials said. And a new Pittsburgh-based restaurant chain, The Simple Greek, has leased a space in the commercial building directly to the north of the hotel.

Meanwhile, construction continues elsewhere at Centennial Village, the new development that will combine upscale condominiums with retail, and which, along with re-routing 45th Avenue, officials hope will transform the look of Calumet Avenue — and Munster itself.

One of the most ambitious projects planned for the town in years, Centennial Village is envisioned as a new downtown area where locals can shop, dine and live. It will be next to Centennial Park and the Pennsy Greenway bike and walking trail.

Centennial Park, once a closed landfill, was transformed into Munster’s largest park with many amenities such as soccer fields, a clubhouse, outdoor pavilions, entertainment stage, gardens, a 3-acre dog park, walking paths, fishing and a nine-hole golf course.

Developers have specified a likely seven-year timeline for the project. Centennial Village is divided into four quadrants, the first of which has been in development since the construction of Springhill Suites at Marriott first broke ground in 2016.

On the northwest side of this quadrant will be the 8,000-square-foot retail building that officials hope will house shops and restaurants. The development combines residential and commercial uses in four buildings. The idea is to create a "walkable" mall in the area.

Centennial Village’s website is currently taking inquiries for the commercial space as well as the residential units — 36 units per building offering nine floor plans and underground parking.

A one-bedroom, one-bath condo starts at $226,180; a three-bedroom starts at $377,772. A one-car underground parking stall is $22,000; a two-car parking stall is $33,000. Kris Hoge, of Re/Max Realty Associates of Munster, said they are actively marketing them, and some units already are reserved. 

Realigning 45th Street a huge undertaking

The development is located at the former home of Munster Steel, which has since moved to Hammond. It also is a direct neighbor to the planned 45th Avenue underpass project, which not only will redirect traffic but also provide the area with a facelift and new recreational opportunities.

The town is working with regional partners to build an underpass beneath the Canadian National Rail tracks that cross Calumet Avenue.

Once that project, which is expected to last several years, is completed, 45th Avenue east of Calumet Avenue will be realigned to meet with west 45th Avenue and reduce congestion at that intersection. Currently, that area is complicated by commuter-rush traffic every night and an active rail line that also causes tie-ups.

The 45th Avenue realignment, known formally as the Grade Separation Project at town meetings, is meant not only to reduce traffic congestion but also encourage and enhance new development in the area.

The reimagined 45th corridor will cut through the northern portion of Centennial Village. The Pennsy Greenway bike path will run east of the development, meaning that its users will pass between Centennial Village and Clayhole Lake. The Pennsy Greenway bike trail is considered an important component in expanding recreational opportunities not only in Munster but regionwide.

The 45th Avenue realignment at Calumet Avenue is likely one of the most complex infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the Region, Munster Town Manager Dustin Anderson said.

It’s been on local wish lists for decades now and began moving toward reality about seven years ago. The pace may appear slow, but looks can be deceiving: “It’s been a very complicated project,” Anderson said.

Not only have the town and its regional partners had to deal with the permitting process, and utilities, environmental and rights-of-way issues over the years, but they also have had to address the concerns of Canadian National Railroad. CN operates a busy live track that crosses Calumet just south of 45th Avenue going east and north of 45th going west.

The 45th Avenue realignment ultimately will result in a tunnel that goes under the railroad line to finally line up the two sections of 45th, so they meet in the middle for the first time. It also will add to green space in the abandoned portion of east 45th.

Financing to involve several local, state agencies

Town officials reported last week that four areas of concern remain to be agreed on between the town and CN Railroad; two are nearly resolved, and two are getting close to agreement.

Town officials said that until all issues are resolved, they cannot confirm a precise timeline. However, once it starts the project is expected to last at least two years.

The cost of the $36 million project will be shared between the town and its regional partners, which include the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Northern Indiana Regional Planning Council and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. NIRPC will be putting in $9.6 million, INDOT up to $10 million and the RDA $6 million.

Local funding will pay the remainder, which is expected to come from a revenue bond the Town Council will have to approve when the time comes.

“It’ll be up to the council” what type of revenue bond to choose, Anderson said, though he likely will recommend money from the town’s wheel tax fund, he said.

Last spring, the Town Council approved development standards for Centennial Village, and agreed to expand liquor license opportunities to help attract dining establishments to the area.