IN: Valpo Eyes Funding for Major Downtown Transit Development

July 18, 2014

July 18--The Northwest Indiana RDA on Thursday accepted for consideration a transit-oriented development plan for downtown Valparaiso that city officials believe will set a standard for Northwest Indiana.

"We are not talking a bus station anymore," Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas told the RDA board. "We are talking the first truly transit-oriented development in the region."

The first phase of the plan would include a transit center just south of the Porter County Administration Center parking garage as well as two 150-car parking lots.

The new transit center would replace the ChicagoDash's small ticket office and parking lot just off Lincolnway at the west entrance to downtown. It could also house administrative offices for both the ChicagoDash and Valparaiso's local V-line service.

The two new parking lots combined would double the capacity of the current lot. The northern lot would be immediately east of the transitcenter and the other about half a block south.

The land for the northern lot is currently occupied by a lot for Von Tobel Lumber & Hardware. The land for the southern lot is occupied by Smith Ready Mix, a concrete company.

The mayor told the RDA board the transit oriented development would be built on the success of the ChicagoDash express bus to Chicago's Loop, but could someday also host a South Shore commuter rail extension.

The city has not zeroed in on an exact grant amount to request of the RDA, but it will fall somewhere between $7 million and $12 million, American Structurepoint engineer Chris Murphy said after the meeting.

Murphy told the RDA board the city already has invested $40 million in downtown development and would contribute planning services for the new project, including that needed for street extensions.

The area ultimatedly could include a park or conservation area south of the planned southern parking lot and a system of canals and retention ponds to handle groundwater. The area also would be accessible by a new hike and bike trail.

In other action, the board also approved granting $300,000 to South Lake County Community Services so it can keep its on-demand buses running within the nine townships it currently serves. The money will serve as 20 percent local match to qualify the bus service for $1.2 million in federal funds.

The RDA also approved final contracts for a number of developments it has previously approved. Under the RDA's protocol, the board must also approve final contracts with municipalities and companies once they have been negotiated.

The board approved a final contract for East Chicago for $17.49 million, which the city will use for its Waterfront Revitalization Project's first phase.

The board also approved a contract to grant $1.57 million to MonoSol LLC, for the company's planned 300,000-square-foot manufacturing plant at AmeriPlex in Portage. The new plant will create 150 new jobs, according to MonoSol.

The money will come from the RDA's deal closing fund and will be used by Monosol for land acquisition and relocation costs.

A final deal closing fund contract was also approved for $400,000 for AM Manufacturing, which plans to move its headquarters and manufacturing facility from Dolton to Munster. It will employ 30 people there and plans to add 10 more jobs in coming years.

A final deal closing fund contract was also approved for $2 million for Modern Forge, which plans to move it manufacturing from Dolton to Merrillville, bringing 240 jobs with it.

Copyright 2014 - The Times, Munster, Ind.