Chesterton Tribune



Coming soon: Major announcement on development project at old Kmart

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For weeks a rumor has been circulating in Duneland that the old Kmart site on Indian Boundary Road--closed since March 2017--will be the home of a new Aldi.

At this point, however, that’s nothing more than a rumor, which the Chesterton Tribune has failed to confirm and which Town of Chesterton officials have declined to discuss.

Town Manager Bernie Doyle, for one, is no fan of the gossip, which he believes serves only to muddy the waters while sensitive negotiations are underway behind the scenes. “Recent speculation has fueled many rumors about a town eyesore that’s been sitting idle for some time,” he told the Tribune after deadline on Thursday.

Yet Doyle does hope very soon to be able to make a formal announcement about a new tenant for a new building on the property, owned by a New Jersey real estate company. “We are on the cusp of a major economic development project that should enhance our community’s shopping options while simultaneously cleaning up the area with the demolition of the old structure and creation of a new building in its place,” he said.

Doyle would not identify the building’s anchor tenant--pending the signing of the lease agreement--except to say that it will be high-profile enough to churn other new business in the area. “Vibrant businesses will be attracted to move in, adjacent to the anchor tenant, further enhancing the commercial value of Indian Boundary Road east of Ind. 49,” he said.

Doyle acknowledged a certain restiveness voiced recently on social media concerning the empty Kmart, but noted that town officials, including himself and Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann, have been working quietly for the better part of a year to find a solution to the problem. “The Town of Chesterton has been engaged in dialogue with the property owners for the past 10 months to encourage new development,” he said. “This is easier said than done with the ‘new retail reality’ nationwide, where 25 percent or more of all retail is now conducted on-line. That percentage has been increasing steadily with traditional brick-and-mortar and national chain box stores in decline. Still, there is a need for certain destination retail.”

Doyle emphasized that the anchor tenant will enter into a long-term lease of the new building, which will still be owned by the current property owner.

In addition to Duneland’s demographics and the location itself on Indian Boundary Road, Doyle specifically cited the “smart growth philosophy” promoted by the Town Council and the Redevelopment Commission as a key rationale in the anchor tenant’s decision to select Chesterton. Both bodies, he said, have been working under the radar to shepherd the project along.

“Smart growth is careful and well thought-out planning and zoning to encourage sustained and sustainable development while maintaining our unique Duneland character and quality of place,” Doyle noted. “Obviously, much is dependent on market-driven trends, location, and the economy. Bottom line: the Town Council and Redevelopment Commission want to ensure quality businesses and industry settle here to the benefit of all our residents.”

The Chesterton Kmart originally opened in 1981, the same year in which the company’s 200th store opened. Kmart was later acquired by Sears Holdings, which announced in January 2017 the closure of 78 Kmart stores--including Chesterton’s--as well as 26 Sears stores around the country.



Posted 5/24/2019




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