MUNSTER | Thursday marked the beginning of the Lake Business Center redevelopment that borders Calumet Avenue, a project that has been years in the making.

Local economic development officials joined members of Simborg Development for a rain-soaked groundbreaking ceremony in the southern end of the 72-acre site.

Guests gathered for the welcome by developer Mitch Simborg in a nearby warehouse that once was part of the Simmons Mattress center.

The warehouse will be demolished next week to make room for restaurants and retail operations. Some office buildings in the back of the property already have been demolished.

Renderings of the new Lake Business Center development were on display in the warehouse during the ceremony. Guests were given hard hats accented with logos for the center and Homewood, Ill.-based Simborg Development.

Simborg thanked the Munster Town Council, whose members are also on the Redevelopment Commission, and other officials for helping fashion the public-private partnership that will transform this site into a mixed-use development combining office space, manufacturing, restaurants, medical facilities and an extended-stay hotel.

Although the weather was inclement, Simborg said "the seeds we are planting now will be very evident in the spring when they glisten in the sun."

The $60 million renovation of the Lake Business Center will include more than 100,000 square feet of prime office space and more than 900,000 square feet of manufacturing/warehouse/distribution space, Simborg said. Homewood Suites Extended Stay Hotel will build on the property next to the Hampton Inn. Both hotel properties are managed by the same group.

"We have letters of intent out to several national restaurants," he said.

The first new medical facility, DaVita Dialysis Center, already occupies the far northeast corner.

"We have 72 acres, but we are using them wisely," the developer said.

Munster sold more than $19 million in economic development bonds to help finance redevelopment and additions to the Lake Business Center. Similar to the economic bond issue that helped develop the Munster Shops property on North Calumet Avenue, this sale of municipal bonds will provide $16.1 million for redevelopment of this commercial property by Simborg.

Another $1.2 million will allow Munster to buy land within the Lake Business Center site that could be used for a South Shore Line train station.

The 20-year bonds' principal and interest will be repaid using only Munster tax increment financing revenue. No residential property taxes will be used to repay the bonds.

Simborg is financing the remaining development costs.

The Lake Business Center is in Munster's TIF district and is expected to bring in about $500,000 annually in TIF revenue. The town's diversified TIF district along Calumet Avenue, Ridge Road and 45th Street brings in between $4.7 million and $4.8 million in annual revenue that can be used for economic development.

"We're very fortunate in Munster to have this happen. Calumet Avenue is a growing and happening place," Town Councilman David Nellans said.



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