EAST CHICAGO — The city may be losing population and plagued by poverty and other ills of the nation’s urban centers, but East Chicago still counts for its more than 26,000 residents and 740 other businesses employing thousands others in northwest Indiana.
The city has been on Indiana’s map for more than a century, helping to make northwest Indiana a major steel hub since Inland Steel built an open hearth furnace in the port. from Indiana to East Chicago in 1902.
And Indiana Harbor remains one of the largest steel operations in North America thanks to its location in the Midwest.
Freighters ply the Great Lakes bringing iron ore to East Chicago. It produces finished metals that are shipped by rail and highway to appliance manufacturers and automotive plants in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.
Douglas Powers, East Chicago Planning Director, said, “Our city offers unique resources. It is a short drive from downtown Chicago with access to interstate highways, railroads and lake barge traffic and over 300 MW of available power. »
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He said: “We have a casino and a yacht club/marina. We have plenty of access to water. We have an abundance of public parks as well as the historically significant Marktown and are neighbors to metropolitan Chicago.
Marktown is a planned industrial community built in 1917 by Clayton Mark, for the employees of his manufacturing plant.
Powers said the 2020 acquisition of the city’s largest steel mill by Cleveland-Cliffs assures the city that there is potential for future job creation.
Its No. 7 blast furnace in Indiana Harbor East is still the largest in the Western Hemisphere.
Powers said the city plans to build on that success by preparing an optimistic 20-year development plan “to determine what the community wants in the years to come so that information is readily available to future commercial developers, residential or industrial.
An example of this hopeful future would be the recent decision by Speedwagon Capital Partners, a Chicago-based private investment firm, to purchase a long-vacant rod mill in Cleveland-Cliffs Indiana Harbor with site redevelopment plans. .
It became the destination of thousands of immigrants from Europe, southern states and Latin America seeking industrial work.
The city’s population peaked in the 1960s at just under 60,000 and declined when industrial automation reduced the need for many jobs and its residents thrived sufficiently in the region’s suburbs.
Nonetheless, Powers said East Chicago is in the midst of a decade-long renewal campaign.
He said municipal incentives of $10,000 to $30,000 for new homeowners have increased and those doing renovations have improved housing stock.
The city has torn down hundreds of derelict buildings, resurfaced its streets, and restored much of the city’s aging sewers.
“There is a proposal for new single-family housing in the Prairie Park neighborhood of the city,” Powers said. “We are revitalizing North Harbor.
“We have seen some new developments, including two mixed-use structures for residential and medical services on Broadway and Main Street. We also have a facade improvement providing up to $25,000 to help businesses with their renewal efforts,” he said.
This is in addition to the 2020 reopening of the Cline Avenue Bridge, which provides city access to the Indiana Toll Road.
State and local government officials are spending $420 million to expand South Shore commuter rail lines, which are key to keeping Chicago’s east end in play for future development.
He said there had been a recent inauguration of a new commercial building in an industrial park in the 4400 block of Homerlee which is expected to provide jobs for hundreds.
Planned redevelopment near the former West Calumet housing complex, which was evacuated due to concerns over lead poisoning, is set to begin with a 1 million square foot building that would be the largest new industrial building of northwestern Indiana.
U.S. Representative Frank J. Mrvan, D-Highland, has earmarked federal spending that includes more than $26 million for cleaning up and improving the city’s Indiana Harbor and its channel to Lake Michigan, as well only $1.2 million to support vocational training programs at Ivy Tech Community College of East Chicago.