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When Mayor Thomas McDermott ran for the office in 2003, his campaign included a vision for Hammond to become more than an industrial giant. Fast forward to 2018, and the vision has taken hold. The renovation of Wolf Lake Memorial Park, the Oxbow Business Complex, the Lost Marsh Golf Course, and the soon-to-be Hammond Sportsplex and Community Center, have combined to transform the vision into reality.

Destination developments

Construction on the Hammond Sportsplex, a $17 million sports complex and community center the site of the former Woodmar Mall, at 6630 Indianapolis Blvd., is on track for fall completion.

“This is an exciting time for the city,” says Anne Anderson, director of economic development. “With the convenient location and easy access to I-80/94, the Sportsplex will be a big draw for the city.”

The 135,000-square-foot complex will feature six basketball courts, 12 volleyball courts, two regulation-size indoor soccer fields and six batting cages. It also has an upper level track that can be used for running or walking or to watch sporting events taking place on the lower level. The development will also contain a community room that can host city events, along with a concession area, general offices and restrooms/changing rooms.

“The mayor envisions the complex as a host site for tournaments in volleyball, basketball, and soccer,” she says.

Known as The PAV, the Pavilion at Wolf Lake is another major effort to transform the city. With its proximity to Chicago, The PAV is becoming well known as an outdoor venue for concerts, movies, and festivals.

“The tower design was inspired by the 1895 Frank Lloyd Wright amusement resort concept for Wolf Lake,” Anderson says.

With a main stage of 2,600 square feet and up to 86,000 square feet for seating, the pavilion hosts concerts and activities that include the Festival of the Lakes, the WHAM! Bike Ride, and the 4th of July Naturalization Ceremony.

Anderson mentions numerous bike trail extensions and the city’s plan to connect the northern trails to the Erie Lackawanna Trail to the south. “We hope that one day you’ll be able to bike from Chicago, along the lakefront, all the way south to Crown Point and beyond,” she says. “It’s part of the Mayor’s vision to open the lakefront to residents and visitors.”

As part of this vision, phase two of the Grand Marquette Greenway opened in 2016, extending from 142nd Street to 150th Street and Walnut Avenue.

Cline Avenue Bridge Project

Just because Hammond has worked on destination development doesn’t mean it’s ignoring the manufacturing base.

“Rebuilding the Cline Avenue Bridge is a classic example of the synergy between several entities to help cities like Hammond,” says Dave Ryan, executive director of the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. “Reconnecting Chicago to Hammond will generate business and revenue for the city.”

The old bridge averaged 33,000 vehicles daily, according to Ryan. “That’s a lot of traffic going back and forth, delivering goods and services to our community,” he says. “The new bridge will open several possibilities for new business ventures.”

Cities such as Hammond have worked extensively with the Lake County Economic Alliance to build a regional chamber that will benefit all of Lake County. “The mayor understands we can all do more working together than separately,” Ryan says. “His visionary philosophy has a lot to do with the success of the project.”

The bridge is expected to open in 2020. “It’ll take a while to get the traffic numbers back up to 33,000 daily,” Ryan says. “But, we’re confident that the benefits to the city will be significant.”

Downtown redo

When downtowns gave way to urban sprawl and shopping malls, retail legends such as Goldblatt’s and Edward C. Minas in Hammond closed. The city administration continues to work diligently to rebuild and revitalize the downtown once home to them.

“A lot of people don’t realize that casino gaming funds are allocated for downtown every year,” says Karen Maravilla, president of the Downtown Hammond Council and owner of It's Just Serendipity. “The administration is determined to do everything possible to make Hammond’s downtown a destination for visitors.”

 New businesses are spurring a transformation. “EAT is now hosting events next door to the Towle Theater,” says Maravilla, whose shop at 5630 Hohman Ave., carries antiques, crafts, gift baskets, brand new items, creations by local artists, furniture, and more.  “The restaurant facility expands the use of the art corridor. It’s Just Serendipity plans to move across the street, which will provide additional arts and crafts venues on Hohman.”

As part of that, Serendipity is spearheading Arts on the Avenue to showcase local artists in September, and Svengoolie will be on hand for Haunting in Hammond in October.

Residential redevelopment

Though most residential land is developed in Hammond, the city has found ways to build new homes. The Lost Marsh Golf Course area will see the development of 14 paired townhomes and six single-family homes, according to Anderson. “We should see groundbreaking soon,” she says. “The plan is to develop a beautiful neighborhood right along the golf course.”

Parrish View Homes is a new and vibrant community along Parrish Avenue and 169th Street. With the help of United Neighborhoods Inc., a nonprofit community development organization, the city was able to develop a community of new, affordable homes.

“We have a huge demand for homes in Hammond,” Anderson says. “The College Bound Program brings a lot of people to our city, so when we have new or refurbished homes they go very quickly,” she says of the program that provides in-state tuition to Hammond residents. 

More than 77,000 people call Hammond home, according to 2016 census data. That makes it the largest city in Lake County. “It shows that we are trending in the right direction,” says Ryan.

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