MERRILLVILLE – The weather isn’t the only thing that’s getting warmer.
“I think Merrillville is hot right now,” City Council Speaker Rick Bella said.
The city has become an attractive place to locate businesses, homes and other developments.
Bella said there are many reasons businesses and people come to Merrillville, and the location of the municipality is one of them.
“Merrillville has always had the advantage of being very strategically located on our (US) 30 and (Interstate) 65 corridors,” Bella said.
The city in 2021 has had a strong year of development. Councilman Shawn Pettit said Merrillville has issued nearly 1,600 building permits. The total estimated construction cost for these projects is nearly $100 million, he said.
“We’re getting big, multi-million dollar projects coming to town,” Bella said.
Much of this construction activity took place in the AmeriPlex at Crossroads Business Park along Broadway and south of 93rd Avenue.
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Amazon has invested more than $30 million in land, buildings and equipment for a delivery station built on a 35-acre parcel at AmeriPlex. The 141,000 square foot delivery station opened in August.
Domino’s Pizza is investing more than $50 million in a new supply chain center at the business park. Domino’s expects to create up to 140 new jobs by the end of 2023 for the centre, which will have the primary purpose of producing fresh dough balls.
The Missner Group plans to build several speculative industrial facilities on approximately 71 acres in the AmeriPlex area. In total, the buildings will have over 1 million square feet of space.
Crow Holdings also completed a building at AmeriPlex that houses Midwest Truck & Auto Parts, Quality Pasta, and Precision Turbo/Turbonetics, and it has other projects underway in the city.
Crow Holdings is creating another facility at AmeriPlex that will be approximately 270,000 square feet. The authorities cannot yet disclose the tenant who could occupy this space. Crow Holdings owns another parcel at AmeriPlex, and a 150,000 square foot building could be built there.
Outside of AmeriPlex, Crow Holdings plans to build several speculative facilities for a retail/industrial complex on Mississippi Street between 93rd and 101st Avenues. The buildings could have a total of around 2.3 million square feet of space when the development is complete
Bella said Merrillville has “a vast landmass,” which makes the town attractive to developers.
“They can come with these big plans,” he said.
The city also has several new residential projects coming up, including an apartment complex that Weiss Entities is planning for the former Merrill Point Mall at 93rd Avenue and Taft Street.
This project will create 320 rental units on the property. This includes the construction of four-storey buildings to house 240 of the apartments. Another 80 units will be in townhouse-style buildings.
Councilman Shawn Pettit said the explosion of development occurring in Merrillville has created the need to create a comprehensive plan for the municipality.
This includes a master plan, a strategic development plan and an updated zoning ordinance.
The commercial area around 61st Avenue and Broadway will also be studied. Councilman Leonard White said that includes creating an economic plan and adding amenities to revitalize this area.
“This part of Merrillville needs to be brightened up a bit,” White said.
Merrillville will also focus on the creation of a new city hall.
Last year, Merrillville bought 16 acres of land behind the existing municipal complex, and Bella described it as “a big forward thinking” from the council.
“Buying the land was really done for the future,” Bella said.
In addition to a new city hall, the property could feature a new park, walking paths and commercial spaces.
Bella envisions it as a place “not just to show up to a board meeting or a planning meeting, but to really come and use it on a day-to-day basis.”
Planning continues for the project, which is in its early stages. When the new City Hall is built, the existing City Complex at 7820 Broadway would continue to be used by the police department
The City Hall project isn’t the only new development the city is pursuing. Efforts continue to create details for the municipality’s first dog park.
Councilman Jeff Minchuk leads a committee planning the city-owned property project at 73rd Avenue and Broadway.
“It will be for everyone in our town, including our furry residents,” Minchuk said.