Northwest Indiana RDA’s coalition fosters development and revitalizes communities

Northwest Indiana RDA’s coalition fosters development and revitalizes communities
By: Curtis Hankins Last Updated: March 12, 2020

Fresenius Kidney Care in East Chicago opened in March 2019, an example of a redeveloped brownfield with the help of the Northwest Indiana RDA and their coalition.

Northwest Indiana’s industrial history has played a major role in its development. Without the booming steel mills, shipping channels, and refineries, the Region might never have become as bustling as it is now. At the same time, that history has left some scars on the land and cityscapes. With the help of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) and other agencies and communities working together, some of these scars are fading and blossoming into new and better spaces.

Everyone is familiar with abandoned properties scattered across cities like East Chicago, Gary, and Hammond, or La Porte, many having hosted an industrial plant or gas station. Many of those properties are called brownfields, pieces of land contaminated or possibly contaminated by hazardous waste from previous tenants.

That contamination makes brownfields a complicated and often expensive process to remediate or develop, involving EPA and other agency approvals. To encourage brownfield development, cities across the Region teamed up with the RDA and the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) to offer funds for the clean-up process to prospective developers.

“Our goal is to help revitalize these municipalities across Lake, Porter, and parts of La Porte counties,” said Jillian Huber, Grants Manager for the Northwest Indiana RDA.

The process of fixing a brownfield is complicated because the contamination means any developer working on the property needs to work through legal hurdles and clean-up efforts. It requires close managing of the project and funds involved. With funds secured through government grants, the RDA helps manage those costs and liabilities for developers.

“Our coalition protects developers from liability as long as they do their due diligence in remediating a brownfield,” Huber said. “A lot of these developers didn’t even realize that we offered those kinds of protections.”

The RDA and their coalition are helping developers turn brownfields into a wide variety of new-use properties. Sometimes they are able to convert them to residential spaces, other times they turn brownfields into green spaces that breathe life back into a city. One of their more recent success stories was when they helped convert a brownfield into a modern, high-quality dialysis center, Fresenius Kidney Care in East Chicago.

“These kinds of developments can bring jobs and millions and millions of dollars in investment,” Huber said. “Our help makes or breaks these kinds of developments a lot of the time.”

There is a ripple effect. As the RDA and coalition efforts show success, more communities and organizations are joining forces with the RDA and NIRPC to foster brownfield development.

“We’re going to continue working with these communities long-term,” Huber said. “We care about what we do, and can hopefully work together with them to help revitalize the Region.”

To learn more about the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, visit www.in.gov/rda/