Double track a dominant development

Craig Phillips

MICHIGAN CITY – Investments totaling $1 billion have poured into Michigan City since 2012 – $600 million in public funds and another $400 million in private money – and a major upcoming project could lift those figures even higher.

The annual report of the city’s Redevelopment Commission, and Planning and Inspection Department, presented last week to the Common Council, show how that money was spent, and outlines remaining goals for the near future.

Planning Director Craig Phillips said it takes several years to complete many of the projects his department undertakes. In addition to listing projects accomplished in 2018, he provided status updates on several that remain in progress, the biggest being the South Shore Line double track, which will likely have the widest-ranging impact on the city.

The project came up multiple times during Phillips’ presentation, in which he pointed out that Michigan City funded two-thirds of La Porte County’s local match – approximately $12.2 million.

Additionally, a feasibility study was conducted for the property where a new South Shore station will be located, bounded by 10th Street on the north, 11th Street on the south, Franklin Street on the west, and Pine Street on the east.

Phillips said in addition to building a parking garage, he hopes to turn the area into a mixed-use space that generates tax revenue for the city. It’s a decision that must be made by August, he said.

How to soften the streetscape around the tracks so as not to “leave a scar” on the surrounding neighborhoods is another issue the Planning Department has been contemplating, as well as development within a quarter-mile and half-mile of the tracks in all directions.

"The city is very committed to the successful completion of that project, and we are partners in that project,” Phillips said.

Establishing a Transit Development District was at the top of Phillips’ list of goals, and he said doing so would provide a new source of funding for the Eastport neighborhood and Midtown district.

Phillips said he plans to revisit and re-evaluate the plans for both Eastport and Midtown. Council President Don Przybylinski asked that he hire a consultant instead of leaving it up to a council member.

"We hope to partner with various agencies, council members, etc. to make revisiting those plans a priority going forward,” Phillips said.

One initiative he hopes to implement will incentivize small businesses to fill vacant spaces in Midtown and the Uptown Arts District.

The latter, Phillips said, recently benefitted from the Upper Story Restoration Program to the tune of around $1 million in investment and 10-15 new residential units.

In Eastport, the city is exploring turning Woodland Avenue between Michigan Boulevard and the South Shore tracks into a two-way street, and Pleasant Avenue north of the tracks into a two-way street, using Holliday Street to move between the two.

Phillips said it’s a potential solution to moving traffic between Michigan Boulevard and Springland Avenue after the double track moves in.

"We're trying to do this in a way that's least invasive to the neighborhood, but provides the safety and the traffic flow that we need because, as it stands, the current one-way situation is not going to be adequate if Carroll Avenue closes," he said.

To view the annual report in its entirety, contact the Michigan City Planning & Redevelopment/Inspection Department at 219-873-1419.

(Editor's note: A look at some of the other projects discussed in the report will be in Sunday's News-Dispatch.)

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