Northwest Indiana is ripe for growth, and there has never been a better time to invest in our future.
Strategically planned Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) projects that reinforce our integration into the greater Chicago economy, such as the West Lake Corridor and South Shore Line Double Track Rail Projects, are essential to boosting local economies, driving population and attracting new talent to the Region while positioning our communities for future growth.
As CEO of Peoples Bank and Board Member of One Region’s Opportunities Council, I am committed to helping our communities be more successful. The Council and the Regional Development Authority (RDA) have been working with local governments on an innovative way to jumpstart our economies and increase capital by leveraging TOD investments in the Greater South Shore.
I was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, and my family is deeply rooted here. My great-grandfather started Peoples Bank in 1910, and ever since the Bank opened for business, we have maintained a commitment to community success. As a locally managed company, we at Peoples Bank have made it our responsibility to contribute to the well-being and prosperity of the Region.
People are also reading…
Investing time, money and resources toward TOD projects creates more connectivity between Northwest Indiana and Greater Chicagoland, and builds an ecosystem of opportunity that levels up our competitive edge regionally and nationally. TOD creates a vibrant, connected community because of increased access to jobs, amenities, businesses and housing. Growing our population without further burdening our roads will also reduce congestion, improving quality of life for all.
Millennials and Gen Z job seekers are searching for and landing high-paying jobs in the Chicago area. This age group represents the largest demographic of potential homebuyers and consumers in the United States today. To achieve greater economic success, we must focus on driving population growth in this key demographic to Northwest Indiana.
Chicago is highly sought after by job seekers because it presents diverse opportunities for both personal and professional growth, but living in the city can be costly. For those working in Chicago, the most economical choice is to reside in Northwest Indiana, where there are lower housing prices, low property taxes and a low cost of living.
However, housing in Northwest Indiana remains automobile-dependent, and commuting to Chicago can be a challenge for many of these job seekers. Often times, despite the advantages of the Region, these individuals are choosing to form households in Illinois where TOD is already built out. To continue our path toward economic success, we must make changes to meet young professionals’ demands for a wider variety of housing that allows easy, direct access to Chicago and creates communities in which they can live, work and succeed.
There is positive momentum in community-backed TOD in locations within Peoples Bank’s footprint, including Dyer, Hammond, and Munster. These communities emphasized the need to balance the opportunity brought by the West Lake Corridor project with the desires of the local community. In the case of Munster, TOD exists in the compact historic neighborhood of Ridge Road station and in the high-quality walkable development at Centennial Village. Likewise, Dyer has been working to transform its downtown into a similar destination and Hammond is reimagining its historic downtown for a new generation.
With shorter commutes and fewer automobiles, congestion will decrease, and economic activity will increase as populations grow. Despite the risks, the benefits of TOD have repeatedly brought a high rate of return when backed by a network of state and federal government agencies, nonprofits, investors and influential members of the community. Examples abound across the country, and this is our moment to see the same benefits in our communities.
When I think about the future of Northwest Indiana, TOD is the key to our success. By working together, taking advantage of innovative opportunities such as TOD, and investing in ourselves and our communities through collaboration, we have the profound strength and power to build a better future for ourselves and each other.
Ben Bochnowski is the CEO of Peoples Bank and a One Region board member. The opinions are the writer's.