Reviving Indiana’s Shoreline – Lakeshore Report
June 6, 2014 – For many Lake County residents, the Lake Michigan shoreline is synonymous with industry. But automation and a changing business climate have reduced the footprint of some shoreline industries, leaving room for new development. This week, Lakeshore Report takes you to East Chicago, where leaders say soon, everyone will be talking about the region’s new “Harbor District.”
Indiana Congressman Pete Visclosky has a vision for the Lake Michigan shoreline, and it’s certainly not a new idea.
Visclosky told Lakeshore Report, “I first talked about the Marquette Plan and recapturing the lake in June of 1985. That is almost thirty years ago.”
The Marquette Plan centers on reclaiming 75% of the lakefront for public use, no small task in an area dominated by industry. But officials say local businesses also realize the value of the lakefront as a regional commodity.
“The industry has been very willing to talk to cities, ourselves, as far as properties they do not need to make steel,” says Visclosky. “All of us want this industry to be successful, make as much steel as possible, but for those other areas, to open it up and again to have renewed economic activity, we’re much closer to that than farther away now.”
The Congressman says decades of planning, funding, and cooperation are now visible along the shoreline.
Visclosky adds, “You’re gonna see the grand opening of the lakeshore in Whiting, Indiana. You have a former industrial site in Portage today that is now 63 acres open on Lake Michigan.”
East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland says his city is now in a position to fully join in the effort.
“When I first came in as mayor, the city was $15 million in debt,” Copeland told Lakeshore. “You can have all kinds of visions, and you’re dreams become nightmares if you do not get your financial house in order. We’ve done that.”
Visclosky agrees, saying the mayor has been very aggressive in weaning the city off of some of the investment dollars that have been used for operation and maintenance in the past, and they can now invest in the future of the city.
East Chicago officials have already begun work on a 5 year action agenda, which incorporates lakefront development with an updated downtown cityscape.
“Right now we’re working in the Main and Broadway area,” Copeland says. “It’s a ‘T’ area that we’re focusing on. I would say between now and the next two years you’ll probably see upwards of $30 to $40 million invested in that area alone, and then in a concentric fashion you’re gonna see it spread out throughout the city.”
Both Copeland and Visclosky believe that once the beaches, parks, shops and restaurants are in place, residents and visitors will share in the vision of Lake Michigan’s south shore as a recreation hot spot.
Copeland says “You see it coming down from Chicago, then you see it in Whiting, then you see East Chicago, Gary, everybody is buying in to restoring the lakefront. It’s probably the greatest investment that we will make in the future for our children.”
Work along Main Street is expected to finish up by the end of this year.