GARY — The city may get a new hotel near its lakefront, although don't expect brick and mortar being laid for such a facility anytime soon.
A proposal for a hotel is included in a master development agreement with Meridian Hospitality Group LLC, which was approved by the Gary Redevelopment Commission last week. The commission determined the group was the best to develop what is known as the East Lakefront area near Marquette Park, including the private investment to supplement transit and infrastructure improvements.
"This doesn't bind the city to any incentives or land," said Joseph Van Dyk, executive director of the city's Planning and Redevelopment Department. "This is merely a starting point for what we hope is a long, prosperous planning and development process."
The agreement calls for the hospitality group to eventually complete construction of "a nationally recognized, full-service, branded hotel" and to secure a commitment from a hotel operator approved by the nationally recognized brand.
Another responsibility outlined in the agreement is the construction of at least 250 housing units.
The boundaries of the development area include roughly Aetna Street to the west, County Lline Road to the east, and the toll road to the south. It is referred to as the Northern Waterfront area in the agreement.
Prior to any of the proposed development, however, the Meridian Group will be conducting studies and preparing a master plan during a pre-planning and planning period. The pre-planning period alone is scheduled to take 18 months and include feasibility studies to determine the best use of and market potential for the area being developed.
The Meridian Group was one of three companies selected in May to be master developers of different areas of the city and the first to enter into a formal development agreement with the Redevelopment Commission.
Gary officials had said previously they wanted the master developer for the East Lakefront area to eventually build a 150-room full service hotel with a restaurant and cafe.
The Meridian Group, which was established in Cleveland, Ohio, has begun bringing key personnel into Gary. A 10-year vision it had earlier prepared for the lakefront area not only includes a boutique hotel, but other attractions such as a winter ice rink.