Gary mayor reconsiders lakefront development proposal

Wants to move recreational development east and away from Buffington Harbor

July 20, 2012

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The mayor of Gary, Indiana says she’s reconsidering a plan that would return old industrial areas along its lakefront to public use.

Northwest Indiana hopes to emulate Chicago’s legendary lakefront with an initiative called the Marquette Plan.
Proposed nearly 20 years ago, the plan would transform abandoned industrial properties along the Lake Michigan shoreline into recreation areas.

One area is Buffington Harbor, home to Majestic Star Casino’s two casino boats. Under the Marquette Plan, a proposed city marina and other recreational developments would be built near the casinos.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson says while she supports the Marquette Plan, she thinks that area should remain industrial, since several industrial companies are already nearby and may have plans to expand operations.  

“Buffington Harbor has historically been our industrial corridor. Because of the history of that area it would be really hard to either live on or to have any substantial recreation there because of the need for environmental remediation,” Freeman-Wilson told WBEZ on Friday.

Freeman-Wilson, who was in Indianapolis on Friday picking up an award, says she wants to move the casinos to an area much farther east and off Lake Michigan. The area would be near the interchange of Interstates 80/94 and 65.
Any proposed marina and other recreational/retail developments pegged for Buffington Harbor would be better served, Freeman-Wilson says, if they were built much farther east, near Gary’s posh Miller Beach community.

“I’ve talked about making Miller the Hamptons of the Midwest. To the extent that is true, you have to have retail in that area, restaurants and other opportunities for people who summer there,” Freeman-Wilson said. “A development with a marina on that side of the beach would be consistent with that.”

But moving the casinos boats off Lake Michigan would need approval from the Indiana General Assembly. The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, which provides funding for the Marquette Plan, has yet to consider Freeman-Wilson’s proposal.