HIGHLAND — As work continues on the new Cardinal Campus, the northeast corner of Main Street and Prairie Avenue has traded its woodsy look for a scenic extension of the business corridor immediately to the east.
The upscale office park is the idea of Dr. Claude Gendreau, a veterinary surgeon from Buffalo Grove, Illinois.
When completed over the next half decade or so, the 9-acre complex is expected to boast seven two-story office buildings and a three-story boutique hotel similar to one that Gendreau owns in Homewood.
Gendreau made good on his wish to break ground before the new year and phase one is beginning to take shape with Core Construction.
Gendreau plans to erect several buildings at a time over several construction stages, with the hotel going up in the final phase.
This initial phase will include three of the office buildings, starting with a new medical office center.
"The first building being done is the medical center will be state of the art," said Redevelopment Commissioner and Town Council Vice President Bernie Zemen, D-1st. "The whole basement foundation has been poured, and the structure is going up."
The infrastructure is now being installed for all the construction phases, including an underground electrical system.
"Coming soon" signs also have popped up.
Some neighbors in Whispering Oaks have complained about construction noise.
But another resident, Beverly Dohman, lives near the site and said she hasn't heard much noise since stormwater lines were extended under the roadways.
"I'm a little bit concerned about traffic noise after the campus is open," she said. "You just hope for the best."
The complex will feature dozens of landscape trees along Main and Prairie, along with other landscaping features on the grounds.
Ingress/egress will be from both Main and Prairie. On Main, the entrance will be lined up across from Plum Creek Drive on the Schererville side.
On Prairie, an entrance will line up with Timberidge Lane.
A private brick road will meander across the campus, in a northwest direction, to connect these two points of entry/exit. Many more of the landscape trees will stand on both sides of this road and among the buildings, according to the plans submitted to Highland officials.
"Improvements (are coming) to Main Street, Prairie Avenue — and the new traffic signal that will be installed" on Main at the Timberidge intersection, said Tim Kirkby, project manager with Farr Associates in Chicago.
"Foundations for office building two and office building three will likely begin within the next several weeks," he said.
Total cost will be about $75 million, Gendreau said. The first phase will cost about $17.5 million and include most of the infrastructure for the project. "It should be completed by the end of this year."
To help Gendreau get the project going, the town arranged for economic development bonds.
"These aren’t sold in a big sale, but rather are negotiated and placed privately with a private buyer," Clerk-Treasurer Michael Griffin said.
Gendreau will buy the bond issue but, as a private entity, needs the governmental structure of the town to officially receive the funds.
The financing will be done in stages, with the sale of $3 million to $5 million to help with the first phase, Griffin said.
The Redevelopment Commission set a "not to exceed" number of $16.5 million as the overall value of the bonds, which will be released incrementally for each phase of the project.
"I very much look forward to building that hotel," Gendreau said. "The one I have in Homewood is doing great. I am confident there is a similar demand in Highland, and I see real synergies between the two."
Gendreau has said his La Banque boutique hotel is often filled close to capacity. It is helped by its close proximity to the Metra and Amtrak train stations.
The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District continues to plan for an extension of the South Shore Railroad, which would run as far south as Dyer. Those tracks would run through Munster, ending at Main Street west of the Cardinal Campus.