By Joseph S. Pete
HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) – Many people used to see the Little Calumet River as little more than a murky polluted ditch prone to nasty flooding, but now it is increasingly being looked at as a potential backdrop for restaurants and other businesses.
A three-decade-long, $275 million levee project is expected to open up 1,500 acres of once-marginal land near the river for economic development. Much of the affected land is along the Interstate 80/94 corridor and would have been considered prime for development long ago, if it had not been in a flood zone.
A new brewpub, a Walmart superstore, restaurants and other shops are planned near the Little Calumet River in Hammond, and other communities the river cuts through are eying its potential. One town official said the waterway could be cleaned and redeveloped the way the Cuyahoga River was in Cleveland, The Times reported.
Highland has created a riverfront redevelopment district, a strategy that has also been pursued by West Lafayette, South Bend and a growing number of Indiana cities. The town would like to see restaurants and potentially medical research or high-tech office buildings just south of Hammond’s Oxbow Landing, where the Hammond Station Restaurant and Brewery and neighboring shops are planned.
Officials in Griffith have discussed ideas such as a wild-game restaurant and a man-made lake with a place to rent canoes. Gary could explore the possibility of enhancing green space and adding more trails along the river near Broadway, where such amenities could add to its University Park neighborhood redevelopment effort.
Griffith would first need to get a levee moved further north to take more land out of the flood zone, and Highland would have to relocate its Department of Public Works building and Sharp Athletic Complex to free up land. Both towns have been working to lay the groundwork for private developers to plant new businesses near the river.
“The thinking is different. Since they built up the levee from the flooding, there’s been consideration of how the river could be an asset,” said Cecile Petro, Highland’s redevelopment director. “The river always was just a negative before.”1 2 3 4 next >>