La PORTE — City initiatives for healthier living were discussed by residents, politicians and city employees Tuesday night during the Heart of La Porte Kick Off meeting at city hall.

The meeting was hosted by the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte along with the City of the La Porte Redevelopment Commission.

The meeting room was filled with locals craving information about the direction of the city’s downtown and NewPorte Landing area around Clear Lake.

The former Allis-Chalmers Industrial Complex on the north end of downtown has developments that are already underway, including a $35 million mixed-use Flaherty & Collins development. The building will consist of 200 luxury apartments and more than 5,000 square feet will be used for retail.

Plans for much of the remaining area have yet to be finalized or revealed to the public. The meeting was presented as a chance for the public to provide feedback and help shape the vision of local economic development.

However, problems of the past still persist in the NewPorte Landing area. Some of these challenges were revisited during the Heart of La Porte meeting.

Over the better part of a century the area was used for manufacturing. The distinctive orange coloring of Allis-Chalmers’ farm equipment is still deep-rooted in the city. The derived “Slicer Orange” has proven to be an enduring emblem for its proud city-natives.

The once booming industry has left an environmental stain around Clear Lake. Members of the public were informed that Allis-Chalmers had dumped a significant amount of paint sludge in the area.

Decades old orange paint from Allis-Chalmers’ machinery manufacturing can still be found on the site where developers are hoping to build new businesses.

City Engineer Nicholas Minich confirmed, “It’s underground. That’s what we’re working to clean up. There was some dumping that we will be addressing with the current phase of the cleanup.”

According to Minich, the city has a $4 million cleanup contract with an environmental remediation contractor.

“The contract involves the more difficult areas of the site. There are parts [near Clear Lake] that are fairly easy to clean up. It [involves] removal of the soil that has impacted the surface [without] any issues below. In other areas, there is more going on and more detail to go into the type of work that needs to be done in order to make sure that it’s acceptable for reuse as residential for the Flaherty and Collins project,” he said.

The city is coordinating with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to make sure that the site is safe for redevelopment. The cleanup in this section of NewPorte Landing is expected to be completed by Spring of 2020. 

“Allis-Chalmers did a lot of great things for the community, but we also lost a lot of natural capital,” said Minich. “Our lakes are a huge asset to our community and source of natural capital. In creating this industrial area, they filled in a lot of lake. I think really what our vision and goal [should be] to figure out how to regain people’s ability to access and enjoy Clear Lake.”

More discussion on making a healthier La Porte is expected at the Heart of La Porte’s Design Workshop charrette that is scheduled for the week of Nov. 18. Additional information can be found at heartoflaporte.org.

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