is a regional strategy to redevelop the Lake Michigan shoreline, improve transportation infrastructure and transform the economy of Northwest Indiana. Since 2005, the RDA, shoreline communities, and for-profit and non-profit partners have invested or committed approximately $210 million toward these goals. This investment has directly leveraged more than $540 million in additional local, federal and private funds. Overall, these projects have created or supported more than 2,000 permanent and construction jobs and had a total economic impact of more than $1.1 billion since 2006.
The Marquette Plan incorporates many cities and towns across the Northwest Indiana shoreline, spanning 3 counties along Lake Michigan and involves a multitude of improvements. To learn more about Phase 1 items, roll over icons on the map to view progress.
Northwest Indiana is the eastern gateway to the Chicago market, the third-largest Combined Statistical Area in the U.S. with a population of nearly 10 billion in 2010. In November 2011, the Northwest Indiana Regional Council of Economic Advisors, made up of experts from Purdue and Valparaiso Universities, estimated total private sector sales in the Chicagoland region - including Northwest Indiana - at $1.6 trillion. In addition to being one of the nation's largest markets in its own right, The Region is a key national logistics hub, with air, water, rail and road access that is unmatched in the Midwest.
Using a $17 million dollar matching grant from the RDA that leveraged more than $33 million in federal funds, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District acquired 14 modern bi-level train cars. These have been in operation since the beginning of 2009 as part of a larger plan to speed commutes to and from Chicago, thus allowing NICTD to enhance their South Shore schedule by adding additional routes.
RDA Funding: $31.4 million
Leveraged Funds: $22.8 million
Total Cost: $54.3 million
In the Wolf Lake Recreation Area Development Study, the City of Hammond identified potential improvements which were incorporated into the final Marquette Plan. These included improvements to the Lake Michigan Shoreline, the Wolf Lake Recreational Development Area and the George Lake recreational trail system. With funding from the Regional Development Authority, the City has put the Plan into action, improving access to and enhancing the Lake Michigan Lakefront Park, building a signature Amphitheater at Wolf Lake Memorial Park, and expanding and upgrading the park as well as a network of trails connecting Hammond, Whiting and through to Chicago. Key to this effort was the construction of the George Lake Trail Bridge, which connected George Lake Trail and the Whiting Lakefront Park Trail over Indianapolis Boulevard.
Before people can enjoy the Lake Michigan shoreline, they have to be able to get there! As part of the Marquette Project, Hammond is employing Regional Development Authority funds to improve public access with pedestrian paths, public-access parking, new lakefront trails and improvements to existing trails. When complete, this will create a continuous system of trails linking not only Hammond and Whiting, but connecting to Chicago's lakefront trail network as well.
The long-neglected jewel in Hammond's crown, Wolf Lake Memorial Park has been transformed through the efforts of the City and the Regional Development Authority. The construction of the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Wolf Lake Pavilion has created an outdoor showplace for concerts, performances and gatherings unparalleled in the region. A new aquatic center, landscape improvements and other additions have further reclaimed this space for the community.
Nestled on Wolf Lake, Forsythe Park offers sports and recreation opportunities to the residents of Hammond. Working with the Regional Development Authority, the City has reconstructed and expanded baseball and softball fields in the park, encouraging organized youth sports activities as well as family events like lakeside picnics and outings.
The George Lake Trail Pedestrian Bridge is a literal example of the Regional Development Authority's commitment to bringing together the diverse communities of Northwest Indiana. Spanning a busy roadway, the bridge links the lakefront trail systems of Hammond and Whiting, allowing residents to mingle and enjoy the many shopping, dining and recreation amenities offered by both cities.
The bridge was named a 2012 Outstanding Transportation Project by the Indiana Metropolitan Planning Organization Council.
RDA Funding: $22.0 million
Leveraged Funds: $24.8 million
Total Cost: $46.8 million
Marquette Plan projects in Whiting will provide a number of economic development and quality of life improvements. These include pedestrian and bicycle connections to a regional trail network, safe and engaging access to the Lake Michigan waterfront and improvements along the shoreline. Together with expanded opportunities for additional residential and commercial development around Whiting Lakefront Park and 119th Street, these projects will generate more than 200 full- and part-time construction jobs and transform the park into an economic asset and attraction for the community.
A boardwalk, boat harbor and a concert venue are just part of the Regional Development Authority-funded $43 million renovation of the Whiting Lakefront Park now underway. Initial infrastructure phases, including new sewer and utility lines and a lift station, were completed in 2011. New concessions stands, restrooms and a performing arts pavilion will be completed in 2012. When finished, the Whiting Lakefront Park will be a draw for residents and for visitors from around the Calumet region.
The project spurred the City's investment in Oil City Stadium and stimulated private investment, including residential development, four new restaurants and a $12 million BP training center. Investors have approached the city about expanding the business district and a public/private partnership has been established to develop Whiting as a year-round lakefront destination.
The Regional Development Authority's primary mission is to catalyze economic development by funding projects that create a foundation for future growth. As part of a $19.4 million project, the RDA has enabled Whiting to fund a new sports complex and citywide improvements that will boost local retail and tourism industries, as well as ongoing improvements to the Community Center, which now includes a gym, bowling lanes and a swimming pool.
Under the Marquette Trail project, Regional Development Authority funds have been used to reconstruct old, unusable trails and create new trails in order to create a singe network stretch from Chicago's Calumet Park to New Buffalo. Combined with the Dunes Kankakee Trail, these two projects will create a region-spanning modern trail system from Chicago to the Indiana Dunes.
RDA Funding: $5.9 million
Leveraged Funds: $54.4 million
Total Cost: $60.3 million
As part of the Marquette Plan, the City of East Chicago has embarked on several initiatives aimed at creating a more open and livable community, improving the quality of life of residents and setting the stage for further economic development.
East Chicago's North Harbor neighborhood is undergoing a revitalization initiative aimed at creating a mixed-income, pedestrian-oriented community with access to the city's Main Street business district as well as the Lake Michigan shoreline. This effort includes renewed commercial building and townhouses which will spur economic growth.
Efforts in East Chicago's central business district include the reconstruction of Nunez and Callahan parks, a new police substation and the transformation of an old library into a performing arts center. Infrastructure and streetscape upgrades in the retail district have also been made, and building codes have been modified to encourage pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use development in the area.
Leveraging both state and Regional Development Authority funds, the City of East Chicago is executing a $56 million project to replace an aging water filtration plant with a new, state-of-the-art facility. In the process, the new, smaller plant will free up 10 acres near the East Chicago marina that represents a prime location for further redevelopment.
RDA Funding: $52 million
Leveraged Funds: $257 million
Total Cost: $309 million
"Sweeping changes will not come overnight," says Marquette Plan architect Congressman Pete Visclosky. "Nor can they be dictated by one person or one governmental body. We in Northwest Indiana must sit together as a unified community and reach a consensus on our future." In recognition of that need to come together as a community, the Marquette Plan seeks to link the communities and economies of Northwest Indiana into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
In addition to aiding the city with the Gary Chicago International Airport runway expansion, the RDA also partnered with Gary to attract jobs and new investment to the Kirk Rail Yard.
Spanning 241 acres, Marquette Park represents one of the region's greatest opportunities for redevelopment and reinvention. Numerous projects have been completed, while others are ongoing, including a new recreation pavilion, restoration of the Gary Bathing Beach Aquatorium, restoration of the father Marquette Statue and landscaping and access improvements. RDA funding for the project has been leveraged to attract matching grants from the EPA which will fund further projects and job creation at Marquette Park.
The Gary Chicago International Airport is the centerpiece of the RDA's transportation initiatives in Northwest Indiana. The RDA and the State of Indiana have provided $50 million toward the $166 million project to extend the airport's main runway so the airport can reach its full potential as an economic engine for the region. This complex, multi-year project involved numerous private businesses, three class one railroads, the City of Gary, the Federal Aviation Administration, INDOT, the RDA - and more. The RDA has also funded a strategic business plan that lays out a path for success for the airport once the extension is complete.
Recent pictures of progress can be found here.
The RDA partnered with the City of Gary and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation on a package of incentives to secure CN's upgrade of the Kirk Yard in Gary. CN is investing $141 million to improve the Kirk Yard, a project that will create approximately 119 new jobs.
RDA Funding: $2.0 million
Leveraged Funds: $17.0 million
Total Cost: $19.0 million
The RDA worked with the City of Merrillville, the State of Indiana and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to attract manufacturing firm Modern Forge to relocate from Illinois to Indiana.
In Merrillville, the RDA also provided $2 million as part of a package of local, regional and state incentives that secured a $17 million investment by Modern Forge. The company is expanding a previously vacant existing building to create a state-of-the-art forging facility which will employ an estimated 240 people by 2014.
RDA Funding: $10.1 million
Leveraged Funds: $6.0 million
Total Cost: $16.1 million
Like the Marquette Plan, the Lakefront Park & Riverwalk project required collaboration and cooperation to be successfully implemented. Over the course of the ongoing project, the Town of Porter has worked collaboratively with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (Indiana Dunes State Park), the National Park Service (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore), the Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission, the Porter County Parks Department, the Duneland communities and various other federal, state, and local agencies to ensure the success of the project.
Once a National Steel Corporation landfill, the Lakefront Park and Riverwalk is a signature accomplishment for the Regional Development Authority. RDA funding and partnerships with the City of Portage and the National Park Service have created a beachfront attraction that has become one of the most-visited sites at the National Lakeshore. The project featured a LEED Gold-certified pavilion with meeting rooms and classrooms.
RDA Funding: $50,000
Leveraged Funds: $150,000
Total Cost: $200,000
With funding from the Regional Development Authority, the Town of Burns Harbor has developed and begun implementation of a Town Master Plan which will boost commercial and industrial development while remediating brownfields, preserving open spaces and improved the quality of life in all of the town's residential neighborhoods. Key proposed improvements include the remodeling of the Westport Community Club Hall, development of a multi-use office park and the creation of a green technology park.
Connectivity to Chicago is critical to job growth and economic development in Northwest Indiana. The RDA has partnered with the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD), which operates the South Shore railroad, on a $550,000 strategic business plan to guide future development of the railroad and areas around its stations. The plan will be completed in 2014.
RDA Funding: $5.7 million
Leveraged Funds: $232,000
Total Cost: $5.9 million
The 2005 Porter County Destination Audit indicated that annually more than 3 million visitors come to Porter County to visit the Indiana Dunes. Those visitors find themselves trying to navigate through a place that lacks a gateway community or a place to start their experience. During the public hearings held in conjunction with the development of the Marquette Plan, many voiced concerns that this lack of a gateway, a sense of arrival, negatively impacted the quality of life of Porter County residents, as well as, the economic development opportunities associated with these visitors. The Indiana 49 Lakeshore Gateway Corridor Development Project balances the needs of residents and visitors, and showcases the town's heritage while preserving, protection and enhancing the environment, protecting local waters, and meeting the principles outlined in the Marquette Plan on the way toward "Creating a Livable Lakefront."
As part of the RDA-funded $19 million Gateway to the Dunes project, the Town of Porter piggybacked on existing Indiana Department of Transportation plans to rebuild the Indiana 49 bridges over US 12 and 20. The new bridges feature design elements which will be carried throughout the corridor upgrade as well as a 10-foot bike and walking path separated by a barrier wall. The town credits the Gateway project, now in phase two, with leveraging more than $10 million in public and private funds for tourism and business development.
With funding from the Regional Development Authority, the town of Porter and Porter County are building the Dunes Kankakee Trail. Part of the overall vision of a single continuous trail running from Chicago across Northwest Indiana, the Dunes Kankakee Trail will run from the Kankakee River east to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The Trail will connect the beach, the state park entrance and the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitors’ Center. Improvements include paving, trail restoration and flood control efforts.
RDA Funding: $1.9 million
Leveraged Funds: $3.9 million
Total Cost: $5.8 million
The City of Valparaiso is the county seat of Porter County. Among its many advantages are a thriving downtown, Valparaiso University and proximity to the Porter County Airport, which is the largest general aviation airport in Indiana. The RDA has partnered with the City to bolster its commuter connection to Chicago and reduce negative impacts on the environment from storm water runoff.
In order to improve storm water runoff from private homes, the City of Valparaiso has encouraged the use of rain barrels and rain gardens that filter or capture water before it can reach the storm sewer system. $50,000 in RDA, city and private funding leveraged more than $324,000 in federal funds to install rain barrels and rain gardens in the Memorial Neighborhood of Valparaiso. Residents themselves also contributed roughly $10,000 to the project, which will prevent an estimated 380,000 gallons of runoff from entering the sewers each year.
Connecting Northwest Indiana residents with jobs in Chicago is critical to Northwest Indiana's economy, so the RDA partnered with the City of Valparaiso on its ChicaGo Dash bus project, providing $1.8 million for capital equipment and to expand parking and station facilities. This funding in turn leveraged more than $3.1 million in additional federal, local and private spending for a total investment of nearly $5 million. Valpo's ChicaGo Dash service now operates three buses daily and is seeking funding to add a fourth vehicle.
The $500,000 Thorgren Basin project in Valparaiso will improve the quality of storm water runoff from the city into Lake Michigan. Water from more than 500 homes and businesses drains into Thorgren basin, where plants and soil filter out pollutants before the water is discharged into Salt Creek, which flows into Lake Michigan. The project, funded in large part through the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, will restore native plants and natural waterways to the Thorgren Basin. The RDA is providing $20,000 for sidewalks and a viewing area at the basin.