The Miller South Shore station area is quiet now. But local officials hope it, and other South Shore Line station areas, will become sites of significant economic development and population growth with the aid of Transit Development Districts being now formed. Staff photo by John J. Lukes
The Miller South Shore station area is quiet now. But local officials hope it, and other South Shore Line station areas, will become sites of significant economic development and population growth with the aid of Transit Development Districts being now formed. Staff photo by John J. Lukes
MERRILLVILLE — The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority has completed its work defining the boundaries of development districts around seven commuter railroad stations, putting them on track for approval by the State Budget Committee as early as this fall.

In a series of unanimous votes after a Thursday public hearing, the RDA board approved Transit Development Districts around seven South Shore Line and West Lake Corridor stations: Michigan City 11th Street, Portage/Ogden Dunes, Gary Miller, East Chicago, Hammond Gateway Station, Munster Ridge Road and Munster/Dyer Main Street.

“These districts will enable the RDA to accelerate development and support public infrastructure investment around commuter rail stations in Northwest Indiana,” RDA President and CEO Sherri Ziller said in a statement after the meeting. “We are already seeing hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of projects get underway in Hammond and Michigan City that are directly related to the West Lake and Double Track projects, and in the coming decades we expect billions more in development. This means thousands of new jobs in The Region as well as vastly better access to high-paying careers in Chicago.”

The opportunity to designate TDDs was created by the state in 2017 in anticipation of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s West Lake Corridor and Double Track NWI projects. Within each district of roughly one-half square mile, the incremental growth in property and local income taxes will be collected and used to support further development within the district.

A TDD is officially established with the approval of the Indiana State Budget Committee. At that point, baselines are established for property and income tax revenue. In future years, the incremental growth will then be collected in a manner similar to Tax Increment Financing districts.

An outstanding issue that may require resolution by the General Assembly involves the income tax portion of the TDD — whether the taxes it applies to are taxes paid by people employed in the district, or to taxes paid by residents of the district.

The Indiana Department of Revenue has ruled that the applicable taxes are those paid by people who work within the district; local officials would prefer it apply to residents, whose numbers are expected to increase significantly with the anticipated transit-oriented development.

David Reynolds of Policy Analytics, the RDA’s financial consultant, said discussions have begun regarding a shift to the local preference, which could require a legislative fix during the next General Assembly. Reynolds noted, though, that the bulk of the TDD revenue will come from the property tax increment.

That anticipated increase in property value has been foreshadowed in the early plans in Michigan City and Hammond that Ziller noted.

The Hammond Gateway Station district stretches south from the railroad into downtown. Plans there include renovating the former Bank Calumet building at 5231 Hohman Ave. to include over 100 residential units and 7,000 square-feet of retail; construction of the Tailor Row apartment complex with 208 units, a bottom floor filled with commercial space and an outdoor plaza on an underutilized parking lot off Hohman Avenue; and construction of Madison Lofts, with about 55 residential units and 87,000 square feet of retail, at the northeast corner of Sibley Street and Hohman Avenue.

In Michigan City, plans for the once-and-future 11th Street Station site call for a 12-story mixed-use development with 208 apartments, more than 10,000 square feet of commercial space and a 558-space parking garage. Other plans include a multi-use development with 200 apartments at the corner of Eighth Street and Michigan Boulevard, and a mixed-use multi-family development project on West Michigan Boulevard, with an eight-story, 180-room hotel and a seven-story, 150-condo building.

“Michigan City used to be a hub of transit,” said Director of Planning Skyler York. “It seems fitting that now we have this opportunity with the TDD and the development that’s happening to reposition Michigan City as a new transit center for the Region.”

“We’re ready for this growth," he said. "We’ve been preparing for 10 years for this growth.”
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