Housing boom is driving force in St. John's dynamic growth
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Housing boom is driving force in St. John's dynamic growth

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St. John is growing in leaps and bounds, with residential development leading the way. 

According to Rick Eberly, St. John director of Building and Planning, the town is on track for a record year. Permits for new residential construction rose to 358 in 2017 from 163 in 2015.

“In 2018, it’s possible we could top 400 new construction permits, with the vast majority being single-family units,” said Eberly.

“Most new residents come from Illinois because of lower housing prices, lower property taxes, top schools, a great parks system, a lower crime rate and proximity to Chicago.”

Construction comprises primarily single-family homes along with duplexes and townhomes.

“For the past 10 years, St. John has been a very marketable and desirable place for many demographics," said Rachael Phillippe, sales and marketing director for Phillippe Builders, one of the companies constructing homes in the town. "We’ve seen multigenerational interest including first-time home buyers, empty-nesters and seniors.”

Phillippe cites The Gates of St. John, a maintenance-free, master-plan community that offers single-family homes, cottage homes (including ranches) for empty-nesters and a senior community. She noted that shopping and medical facilities are nearby.

“St. John is a strong community for us,” Phillippe said. “All the amenities make it very desirable and offer quality family living in the neighborhoods.”

Todd Olthof, owner of Olthof Homes, agrees. “We think St. John is among the best towns in Northwest Indiana. It has a great school system and a variety of athletic opportunities. There are well established businesses and exciting new retail developments being proposed.

"We just broke ground on Walden Clearing on 93rd Avenue, featuring our new Inspire collection of homes,” Olthof said of the builder's latest development.

Eberly said the residential boom also is driving commercial interest. “St. John is the wealthiest community in Indiana based on its population, as well as being the safest community in the state,” he explained. “Illinois transplants can afford so much more here due to lower property taxes and that makes us an ideal location for commercial business.”

The growth, however, has come with its challenges, particularly on the roads. “There’s steady traffic coming in from Illinois that passes through St. John, with the rush hour commutes being the peak periods,” he said.

Eberly said the town is looking to adopt a road impact fee on future residential and commercial construction permits to fund improvements. A study has determined that it will need more than $80 million to deal with traffic in and around town. Eberly said the road impact fee will take effect six months after passed by the town council. 

Indiana is doing its part, with plans to add a center turn lane from just south of 96th Place to U.S. Hwy. 231 and a stop light at 101st Place. St. John has an improvement plan for U.S. Hwy. 231 and Parrish Avenue, to create dedicated lanes for left and right turns and through traffic.

The schools also are working to accommodate the growth. Lake Central High School has had two successful referenda in eight years, and students who live south of 101st Avenue attend Hanover Schools.

To his knowledge, Eberly said Lake Central is not at capacity, but he is unfamiliar with the situation at Hanover. But he said the new Illiana Christian High School, built just outside of St. John that opened this fall, will pick up some of the students.

Challenges aside, St. John's reputation resonates outside the Region. In 2013, Bloomberg’s Businessweek ranked it as the best place in Indiana to raise children as part of its 50-state ranking. 

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