The Porter Redevelopment Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to spend up to
$350,000 plus closing costs to purchase 31.35 acres where an historic Beam
Street brickyard operated in town until the early 1900s.
The site would house a future Porter fire station and perhaps up to 193
housing units and 5,000 square feet of commercial space when fully built out
in what is being dubbed The Brickyard development.
A commission representative, town officials and consultant A.J. Monroe of
SEH Inc., who presented conceptual plans for project, were authorized to
draft requests for proposals in hopes of attracting developers to design and
build the neo-traditional, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood that would
mirror adjacent downtown Porter in size and scale and extend Lincoln,
Franklin, and Rankin streets west through the new site.
Monroe said The Brickyard could offer townhomes, row houses and
single-family homes as well as housing units for senior citizens clustered
around a central park. Such opportunities would give the nearby Porter
downtown a boost and promote both infill redevelopment and new construction,
Because some of The Brickyard land has been dug out, Monroe speculated
underground parking garages could make use of such depressions. He also said
with the site being across from Yost Elementary School, young families with
children would be attracted to the various housing styles available.
Commission president Micheal Genger said what’s been presented by SEH is an
exciting plan for future generations, however, “Just because it’s on paper
doesn't mean it’s set in stone. It’s very conceptual.”
Located at the southwest corner of Beam Street and Sexton Avenue across from
the current Porter fire/public works municipal building, The Brickyard
parcel is being acquired from a People’s Bank of Lake County trust; the
seller's representative was present Tuesday.
In addition to the original approximately 5 acres needed for a fire station,
adjacent land would be held in reserve for future municipal use as needed.
What originally prompted the land search, said Porter director of
engineering Matt Keiser, is that the town would score more points on its
application for federal stimulus funds to build a new fire station if it
owned the land. A closed commission executive session was conducted
previously to discuss land acquisition.
Town attorney Patrick Lyp said when the land’s availability was brought to
the commission's attention, an appraisal and titlework were ordered.
Keiser later said a Phase 2 environmental assessment the town commissioned
shows coal ash was found near the Norfolk Southern Railroad on The
Brickyard’s southern border but not to the degree federal agencies would
have jurisdiction and it’s anticipated the town could handle the mitigation
Monroe told the commission for reasons unknown to him the property now
realizes no tax revenue for the town but by 2030 if build-out is complete,
the total annualized property-tax revenue could be $305,928 based on the
Commission member Bruce Snyder asked what square footage The Brickyard homes
would have. Monroe said about 1,800 square feet. “We’re not looking at high
end?” asked Snyder.
Monroe said an affordable project with alleys on a grid layout would
complement the adjacent Porter downtown neighborhood. “The intention is (The
Brickyard) is a continuation what this part of Porter is. We didn't throw in
cul-de-sacs. We wanted to preserve this area.”
Resident Jennifer Klug asked if the town would be the developer or intends
to resell the land it doesn’t need. Genger said those are things yet to be
discussed. Klug asked if it’s right for someone else, not the town, to make
money off the deal.
Lyp said the upcoming requests for proposals would allow private developers
to submit alternate suggestions how to proceed and for some, requesting tax
abatement from the town could be an incentive they’ll seek.
The motion approving the land purchase, contingent on Lyp’s legal review,
included that Genger be allowed to sign documents and participate in the
closing, and that a check be issued from the Redevelopment Fund.
After the meeting Genger said the Redevelopment Commission has about $1.6
million on hand and invested so the $350,000 will not short it or the Town
Council, which has borrowed commmission money for the General Fund pending
receipt of unpaid Porter County property taxes.
On The Brickyard’s east border along the west side of Sexton Avenue a leg of
the planned Brickyard hike/bike trail would be built. The commission voted
unanimously Tuesday to approve an enclosed steel span trail bridge with a
steel-fabricated roof canopy as the chosen model to cross four-lane U.S. 20
near Howe Road.
Originally a tunnel was to have been built under U.S. 20 until the cost rose
by about $780,000.
Keiser said the revised trail plans are nearly ready to submit to the
Indiana Department of Transportation for review and final approval. A 2010
bid letting is eyed.
About $2 million in federal funds have been awarded for the trail; the
town’s local project share is about $600,000 but Keiser said with the value
of land acquisition, right-of-way and engineering paid over nearly a decade,
little additional money likely will be needed.
Keiser also said at a recent trails conference he learned about ways to fund
maintenance of the trail. A foundation can be formed to do it without
involvement of the Porter Park Department, he noted.