If its membersí preliminary questions are satisfied next week,
the Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission may set the proposed GK Development
retail mall for public hearing.
Whenever the public hearing occurs --- January, February or later --- we
urge the Plan Commission to consider conducting it at a location more
suitable than the Chesterton town hall.
With its maximum 80 -person capacity, the meeting room likely will be too
small for the number of people who legitimately have something to say about
the proposed 350,000 square-foot shopping center.
Its planned location is at the southeast corner of State Road 49 and County
Road 1100N, where a new stop light at Pioneer Trail will be installed at the
Illinois developerís expense. The already-congested area has prompted
commission members rightly to question the ability of thousands of
additional vehicles to stack at and pass through the 49/1100N intersection,
especially from the west.
So who might want to attend the GK mall public hearing? Hereís only a
Certainly South Calumet Road residents and business owners. Road
modifications there, on 1100N and on nearby County Road 100E all could be
required, perhaps even closing the southern terminus of South Calumet itself
The new mallís south entrances would be off two-lane Rail Road near Kelle
Drive. Residents and property owners in that area, especially along Rail
Road, likely will have an opinion they want to express.
Some downtown Chesterton merchants who see the shopping center as a threat
to their businesses have been organizing and already announced plans to
attend the hearing. Also, officials of the Coffee Creek Watershed
Conservancy have been highly critical of GKís plans so far.
Developers are dangling Target and Kohlís department stores as likely mall
anchors as well as other unidentified retailers and restaurants. Duneland
shoppers, who GK hopes will help fill the mallís approximately 1,400 parking
spaces, probably will want to have their say.
Letís not forget Chesterton residents in general. Some welcome the mall,
seeing it as a boost for the local economy bringing with it jobs and the
possibility of jump-starting compatible development in the area. If the mall
is approved, acreage now zoned for industrial use would house coffee shops
and clothing stores instead. Is this the direction its residents want the
town to take? Town officials need to hear their input.
That town hall is getting pretty crowded, isnít it, and we havenít even
counted the merely curious whoíll attend just to see what the big dealís all
The last thing we want to see is a restricted number of people allowed in
the town hall meeting room with an overflow crowd jamming the small lobby,
unable to hear the GK presentation or the publicís comments. Even worse
would be for that crowd to spill out the lobby doors into a cold winterís
Town staff should investigate the feasibility of having the public hearing
at a Duneland School Corp. auditorium or other suitable location where an
adequate sound system is in place, sufficient seating is available and there
wonít be a freight train roaring by every 30 minutes.
Whether or not the GK mall is approved is one of the most important
decisions this town will make; itís far too important to shortchange the
varied constituencies who deserve a voice in that outcome.