Michigan City is poised to take off in 2024 with more than $400 million in private-sector investment flowing into the city.

Clarence Hulse, the executive director of Economic Development Corp. Michigan City, Indiana, said the city is coming off an "awesome" year filled with high-profile megaprojects likely to transform the downtown and community at large.

Developers are investing $100 million into the Franklin at 11th Street Station project that will build more housing around the new South Shore Line station after the Double Track NWI shortens commute times to Chicago. Other major projects include a $24.4 million renovation at The Blue Chip Casino, a $3 million relocation of Burn Em Brewing, a $6 million Bay Logistics warehouse, a $3 million investment at the former Federal Mogul windshield wiper plant and the $280 million SoLa project downtown.

SoLa, short for “South of the Lake," will feature two boutique hotels, a rooftop pool, upscale restaurants, bars, stores, luxury condos and townhomes.

The 14-story 628,000-square-foot building will feature state-of-the-art modern architecture, such as a deck with views of Michigan that's like a donut hole in the middle of the glassy, uber-chic facade.

"The really big one is the $280 million SoLa project next to city hall," Michigan City Redevelopment Commission member Don Babcock said. "It will have two Wyndham hotels and condominiums near Lake Michigan. The 11th Street project is going to bring a new apartment complex by the South Shore Station. The parking garage will be open there soon. Those are just the two big ones downtown. There are also smaller scale projects like Burn 'Em Brewing moving to East Route 12 by Blue Chip Casino."

Michigan City is benefiting from the Indiana Dunes being declared the 61st national park and will benefit from the state prison and NIPSCO generating station being shut down, Babcock said.

"The community is coming together behind all these projects," he said. "There's new investment fixing up properties and painting homes. There's a new administration coming in."

The Double Track project adding a second rail line to speed up the commute to Chicago will soon be finished.

"That will continue to drive momentum," Babcock said. "There are so many things happening here, especially downtown. More visitors will come to explore, which will mean new investment. Cafe Farina just opened a few months ago. It's doing outstanding. Burn 'Em Brewing is relocated from the edge of town to by the Blue Chip Casino, which should be finished by Valentine's Day. Folks are targeting future development on Pine Street and Sixth Street. Hopefully, that comes to fruition."

All of the major projects have been in the works for years.

"Great plans take some time to execute," he said. "But more people are seeing it's a pro-business state where we're working together to ignite the Region and as one Region."

A few of the projects are years away but show that Michigan City is a desirable place to invest, Hulse said.

"They signal that the community can do these huge, monumental $100 million and $280 million projects," he said. "These are huge projects, large projects with mixed use. It's a reflection of our economic strategy to try to attract both new businesses and new talent."

Michigan City made the cover of Crain's Chicago, which asked if it was the next New Buffalo.

"They ran that headline as a teaser for people who like to visit New Buffalo," Babcock said. "But we hope to be more than a tourist town that draws people for four months a year. We want to be a city that's active for all 12 months."

The Crain's article brought six developers to come look at sites in the lakefront city.

"Last year was awesome, just fantastic," he said. "We're very excited about 2024. We have new leadership, a new mayor and city council. The city is going to move forward. I'm just happy and grateful we live in a great community that welcomes development. I'm looking forward to a gangbuster 2024. The best is yet to come."
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