Chesterton Tribune

Broken promises: Planners call for action to stop decay of Coffee Creek Center

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Meeting briefly Thursday, the Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission voted unanimously to have town staff investigate and pursue violations to the ordinance that governs development at Coffee Creek Center.

Since 1998 the over 200-acre project was featured in national magazines, books and video as a model of ecologically responsible, pedestrian-friendly sustainable living that would attract 6,000 residents there alone.

Stylized infrastructure including brick streets, a pavilion/amphitheater, retro street lights, a watershed preserve and a landmark fountain prominently visible from Indiana 49 were built with high hopes and big promises.

Some significant development has taken place: Lakeshore Bone and Joint Institute anchors a small medical/health campus and there’s a hotel, upscale apartments, the beginnings of a new urbanism subdivision and scattered restaurant/retail with some professional offices.

Hardly the surging economic engine original owner Lake Erie Land, the real estate arm of Nisource, parent company of NIPSCO, predicted. Vacant streets and alleys to nowhere tell the tale.

Prison sentences handed down in 2004 for a kickback scheme which greased the sale of 55 acres to a pension trust didn’t help. Coffee Creek Center stalled and parceled-off developers came and went.

Thursday, Plan Commission attorney Charles Parkinson said a determination will have to be made who’s responsible today. The project’s website, which says 2.6 million square feet of commercial/retail/office space are available, contains a LEL logo.

Parkinson noted the ordinance governing Coffee Creek Center provides for a property owners association to assume responsibility to do some things if the original developer doesn’t; the town itself also has the ability to remedy violations if it wishes.

Commission and Town Council member Emerson DeLaney brought up Coffee Creek last night saying pavers in the road are falling apart, proof of liability insurance isn’t on file, 17 acres of park land to be developed for the town hasn’t been, and other violations could exist also.

“As a Plan Commission, we do our due diligence. We’ve extended and extended and extended, time and time again, different things that relate to this (planned unit development),” said DeLaney.



Posted 6/17/2011