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
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.
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.”
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.”
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.