By KEVIN NEVERS
Jerry Mobley is resigning the presidency of the Lake Erie Land Company,
effective March 31.
On Wednesday Mobley tendered his resignation to LEL’s parent company,
NiSource Inc., and though he and his firm, Desert Springs Company, will
remain available to LEL on a consultancy basis, Mobley told the Chesterton
Tribune this week that he is retiring from the development business.
NiSource spokesperson Chris Falzone said that the company has not yet
decided whether to tap Mobley’s successor from within LEL or NiSource or
Mobley will join in retirement the two other persons most associated with
the creation of Coffee Creek Center: former NiSource Chief Executive Officer
Gary Neale and Chief Financial Officer Steve Adik.
It was in a construction trailer at the Sand Creek Country Club in 1993,
Mobley recalled in an interview with the Tribune in 1999, that he, Neale,
and Adik first conceived of a mixed-use residential and commercial
development built along New Urbanist and environmentally friendly lines. “I
don’t remember the exact date,” Mobley said in that interview. “I wish I
did. That should be memorialized somehow. (We) drew on our chalkboard in
there and started coming up with the ideas on what . . . this area needed to
really be something extraordinary.”
Thirteen years later Coffee Creek Center is home to an enclave of up-scale
apartments, a scattering of single-family homes, a hotel, two health-care
facilities, and an office and retail center. It may not seem like much after
so long on the drawing board and then on the market, but in Mobley’s opinion
Dunelanders from the beginning have had unrealistic expectations about the
pace of development there. “It’s always been a 20-year project,” he said.
“This thing is going to be built out and it’s going to be built out within
that 20-year time frame. I won’t say I don’t wish it’s gone a little
Mobley attributed some of the delay to two lawsuits.
The first, brought by Charlotte Robertson and the Hoosier Environmental
Council in 1997, challenged Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals variances and
prompted a coutersuit by LEL and the BZA.
The other, by the Northwest Indiana Regional Council of Carpenters Pension
Fund Trust in 2004, was in the wake of a kickback scheme which resulted in
federal prison terms for a union official, a union attorney, and the two
real estate agents who brokered the sale of 55 acres at Coffee Creek Center
to the Pension Fund Trust. The latter lawsuit remains unresolved.
“The lawsuits, the frivolous lawsuits, were something that affected me
personally and tremendously delayed the project,” he said.
Nowadays, though, Dunelanders who hike, bike, or run the Coffee Creek
Watershed Preserve are unlikely to spend much time thinking about the past,
and for Mobley the restoration of the creek and its banks, the use of a
level spreader system for stormwater management, the construction of trails,
bridges, and other amenities, and the donation of the preserve to the Coffee
Creek Watershed Conservancy are what he would like most to be remembered
for. “It’s a great source of pride,” he said, “some of the innovative things
we’ve done both at Sand Creek and Coffee Creek, both environmentally and
operationally. It really has made an impact on the way things are built in
the U.S. and really all over the world.”
Mobley has served as president of LEL for 13 years, after coming to
Chesterton in 1991 as an expert in golf-course design, construction, and
renovation retained by NIPSCO Industries when it purchased the Sand Creek