Business and Economics

Harvard Students Study East Chicago Redevelopment

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March 5, 2014 — East Chicago city officials want to revitalize the industrial lakefront and they are seeking input from an Ivy League institution to improve the plan.

Eleven students from Harvard University arrived in the city today for a three-day field study focusing on developing the city’s lakefront as part of the city’s Downtown Harbor Initiative.

East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland says positive change to the Harbor area will be a catalyst for urban development across the rest of the city.

“If we get the North Harbor right it’ll be the template for us to do redevelopment across the whole city,” Copeland says. “It has all of the right elements. It is one of the oldest sections of the city. If we can redevelop that we know we can take that template and reproduce it in any part of the city.”

The class is led by Richard Peiser, professor of Real Estate Development at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard. The course goal is to show students what it takes to create contemporary, urban environments, Copeland says.

The cohort will focus on creating a master plan for redeveloping four neighboring areas, including the marina and waterfront, Main Street, the residential and education district, and the public lakefront district.

The study will consist of interviews as well as observations that deal with data collection from the Lakefront and Downtown areas.

“They’ll sit down with pillars in the community and get a feel of the community,” Copeland says. “By the end of the process, we’ll come together and connect the dots to see the bigger picture for development.”

The East Chicago Department of Redevelopment and Community Builders are jointly sponsoring the course.

Copeland says the project spans three mayoral administrations and says Community Builders approached him one year ago with the idea to partner with the university.

“This has given me an opportunity to put my own branding on some of the ideas,” he says.

According to the city’s website, East Chicago has invested $50 million in commercial and residential development. Copeland says the insight of a younger generation with an outsider perspective is invaluable.

“I would say 23 is the average age of the students and just to see the energy coming off of them, you can tell they want to be part of something big,” he says. “You can almost feel the spirit oozing out of them. They’re on a mission.”

By: Hilary Powell


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