Chesterton Tribune

Proposed mall planned for 49 and Toll Road draws opposition, would feature retail and hotel

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By PAULENE POPARAD

A mall anchored by a big-box superstore like Walmart would cause big problems for its neighbors, they told the Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission, even though public comment at the time was out of order.

“I just moved here. If I’d known about this, I wouldn’t have bought where I did,” said Pat Seguin of County Road 900N east of State Road 49, formerly of Des Plaines, Ill.

“This is city sprawl is all this is,” said Dave Naillieux of Calumet Avenue south of 900N, one of about 20 neighbors clearly upset and present to voice their opposition.

The focus of their discontent was 50-acre Coffee Creek Crossing, a commercial/retail mall proposed for the southeast corner of State Road 49 and the Indiana Toll Road and bounded by North Calumet Avenue, which would be realigned. The mall plans passed concept review only Thursday.

About 300,000 square feet of retail space and a 43,000 square-foot hotel are planned. The restaurants and potential retail uses could include a Walmart.

A Walmart sign is indicated on the development plan submitted and one 156,399 square-foot building is identified. “You basically have Walmart lined up?” asked commission vice-president Sig Niepokoj.

Jeff Ban of DVG, Inc., project manager for Coffee Creek Crossing developer I-80 Partners, LLC, said theirs is one of the sites Walmart is looking at in Chesterton, however, if it is developed with them, I-80 Partners would dictate upgraded architectural standards. “It won’t be a block building and blue.”

No matter what it looks like, nearby residents living in unincorporated Porter County later told reporters the development would bring increased traffic, pose a safety hazard for their children and change the rural character of the area.

The I-80 Partners land was annexed into Chesterton in August.

For Deb Eversole of 900N, Coffee Creek Crossing’s big-box anchor would be in her back yard, she said, and expressed concern for area wetlands and possible contamination of domestic wells. Others said much of 640-acre Coffee Creek Center in Chesterton on the north side of the Toll Road sits idle and is a better location for a mall.

“Let’s put it in your neighborhood,” one man told commission members as their mall discussion was concluding.

Member Frank Sessa said it wasn’t realistic to think land at the intersection of a major highway and the Toll Road wouldn’t be developed in this way.

Addressing the neighbors who were trying to speak, “Believe me folks, you’ll get a lot more looks at this,” said member Mike Bannon. Niepokoj said both preliminary and public hearings would occur.

The Presentation

Ban said despite the site constraints of an underground pipeline, a 25-foot grade change, the Toll Road and wetlands, developers believe they can deliver a quality project as well as provide 2 acres for a new Indiana American Water Co. tower that would enhace water pressure for fighfighting and identify Chesterton by its name.

Ban noted approximately 30,000 vehicles on the Toll Road and just under 30,000 on State Road 49 pass the mall site each day. The mall would have a half-mile of Toll Road frontage.

“Realigning old Calumet Avenue is an absolute must,” Ban said. The approach to where Calumet currently intersects with State Road 49 would be moved to the east and the sharp curve made more gradual; a stop light would be installed on Calumet at the mall entrance, and the Calumet/State Road 49 intersection also would be signalized.

These traffic changes are being coordinated with the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Porter County Highway Department as well as Chesterton, said Ban, adding that the developers now will commission a formal traffic study.

He made the distinction that Coffee Creek Crossing is not a lifestyle-center mall, which usually has more amenities and higher-end tenants, however, there will be some similarities like scattered buildings and parking lots that make the Crossing more of a retail/commercial campus that a traditional strip mall.

Also setting it apart will be architectural commitments, including that most of the buildings will have four finished sides where visible by public view, said Ban. “In our opinion it’s very good, very quality architecture (and) architecturally themed lighting.” Regarding the wetlands, he noted, an environmentally passive park-like area is planned on the site’s east side that will include the stormwater management area.

Ban said by way of comparison, the new Jewel and the commercial areas around it on the north side of Indian Boundary Road in Chesterton is about 70 percent of the size of Coffee Creek Crossing as proposed.

The Reaction

Commission member Jeff Trout asked what uses were planned for four mall outlots. Ban said restaurants and banks typically but the developer is open to suggestions what tenants are desired. “There is interest in this community in the national retail industry.”

Member George Stone asked why two lots would have five-story buildings on them. Project attorney Cliff Fleming said one would be the hotel and the other potentially an office building; the developer wants that flexibility should an office use wish to locate there.

The commission hailed the realignment of Calumet Avenue. Bannon suggested there should be more landscaping in the big-box parking lot and around the water tower. Ban said the latter is IAWC’s decision, but there will be substantial green space paralleling Calumet Avenue between it and the big-box anchor.

Member Jeff Trout said the mall’s initial concept plan is satisfactory. “I’m convinced you folks are looking at this a little differently than others.”

According to Sessa, Ban’s was “the best presentation in terms of a commercial development we’ve had in this community.”

No definite date was set for Coffee Creek Crossing’s preliminary hearing. “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Ban. The project is a planned unit development or PUD that will require both Plan Commission and Town Council approvals.

Plan Commission members Steve Yagelski and Fred Owens were absent.

 

Posted 11/16/2007