On February 28, One Region NWI, the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA), and the South Shore Line hosted many government officials and development representatives from the Region at Valparaiso University for the Destination 2024 Summit. This Summit highlighted the importance of transit-oriented development (TOD) and the ways TOD can grow communities and economies. Representatives of the different cities and towns within the Region, as well as key development players, all gathered to talk about the importance of TOD and what it can offer the Region.
TOD is defined by the Federal Transit Administration as a dense, walkable, mixed-use area centered around or located near a transit station. With the announcement of the new South Shore Double Track Project and the West Lake Extension Project, Region residents are set to see a massive investment in the cities where they live. Sherri Ziller, President and CEO for the RDA, spoke about the housing impact TOD will make.
“Housing opportunities around train stations are perfect locations for multifamily housing, whether that be townhomes or condos or apartments, it’s an attractive option for everyone from young professionals commuting to their jobs in Chicago all the way to retirees looking for a walkable community with the option to use transit recreationally. I think the benefits for our communities are it’s a way to grow your tax base by building new property that attracts new residents, and it results in higher state and local tax revenue and provides our residents a choice to live, to work, and to recreate all in the same place,” Ziller said.
South Shore Line President Mike Noland took the stage as well to discuss the upcoming South Shore Double Track Project and the leadership that has made the project possible.
“Our motto on the railroad is ‘Pardon Our Dust.’ We’re not talking about doing it anymore, we’re doing it. You need leaders to make it happen, and we’ve got leaders in our community who have put the hard work in,” Noland said. “Transit-oriented development doesn’t just happen, you have to put the hard work in, you have to have a vision for what you want, otherwise its helter-skelter.”
President and CEO at One Region NWI Marie Foster-Bruns believes in the positive impact TOD can have on the connectivity in the Region.
“It creates that livable situation for everybody,” Foster-Bruns said. “Every day, we get up and we go to our jobs, and we raise our children, and we live our lives. If we can do that same thing with a feeling of more vibrancy and quality in our daily life, then it makes everybody better. Long-term, as a region, the more connectivity we have with each other and the more value we find in it, the more our region is going to thrive, and we are going to attract the population we need for economic growth.”
In relation to TOD, Transit Development Districts (TDDs) were also on the docket for today’s discussion. TDDs are currently being discussed as the premier way to drive significant growth and economic development across the Region. Jerome Prince, Mayor of Gary, Ind., is a heavy believer in these projects and left today’s discussion excited for the future.
“I think over the last couple of years with the team that we’ve built, we certainly made some strides in establishing the correct TDDs, and that I think is going to be huge for us to capitalize on that growth and obviously build that walkable community. We’re looking forward to it,” Prince said.
With creating more infrastructure and developments come the questions of sustainability. NIPSCO President Mike Hooper is looking forward to being involved in these developments and tackling those issues.
“As these developments come along, we’re going to be a key partner as you think about the infrastructure needs for some of the things that we saw in the presentations today. So how do we think about making sure that the infrastructure is sustainable? And then we’re thinking about things like, how do we integrate from an energy standpoint, things like EV charging and infrastructure into these facilities?” questioned Hooper “We have to be planful about how we do that, being planful about the energy needs, but making it blend into the décor of the setting. We tend to be on the front line of this many times because after they pick the property, then the developers come to us and start talking about utilities and the gas or electric price. So, for us, this is key, and we’ve been key all along the way on the double track project because of our interface, so it’s a cool opportunity.”
Jenny Craig-Brown, Executive Director at GreatNews.Life, was also in attendance at the Destination 2024 Summit and is excited to see how the Region is coming together to create change within its communities.
“It’s incredible that this region came together today, all of us, to share plans and the bright future we have right here in Northwest Indiana,” Craig-Brown said. “It’s exciting to see the plans we, along with our future generations, will get to enjoy.”
After hearing from the Region’s leaders, it is clear that TOD and TDDs are the future of many cities and towns within the Region. As these communities continue to grow and attract more residents, the infrastructures will need to grow with it. To learn more about TOD, TDDs, and some of the development projects coming to the Region, please visit the following links: www.nwitdd.com; www.oneregionnwi.org/d2024; www.nictdwestlake.com; and www.doubletrack-nwi.com.