PORTAGE — The open-air pavilion is ready for business at the Lakefront Park and Riverwalk.
Redevelopment Administrator Colin Highlands said the pavilion construction is part of a larger northside plan focused on redeveloping former industrial land near Lake Michigan for purposes of conservation and recreation access. The pavilion is located off U.S. 12 at the east arm of the Little Calumet River, south of the Portage Lakefront Park and Riverwalk.
It cost $1.4 million to transform a formerly enclosed building into an open-air venue, Highlands said. "Users of the facility have the opportunity to view restored prairie, dune, and river environments in one location. Taking a regional perspective, our project proves that we can successfully redevelop the lakefront for the public good."
The city first began reviewing proposals to transform the former training center back in 2016. The city took ownership of the building, which was constructed in 1999, in 2009 when the steelmaker swapped the building for land at the city's northside business park. U.S. Steel never built a new training center.
Former Portage Mayor James Snyder said at the time the city was "struggling with what to do with that training center."
Under Snyder, the city's Redevelopment Commission funded the project that extended the park southward, adding parking and trails and converting the building. Portage received a federal grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to environmentally restore 35 acres of land. The Redevelopment Commission restricted the deeds on another 35 acres to protect environmentally sensitive areas.
"Because the National Park Service owns adjacent lands, we have successfully provided a buffer to help protect this valuable regional asset," Highlands said.
While the land and building is owned by the city's redevelopment commission, the parks department will run the operations and the two will split the revenue.
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