Indianapolis-based developer Tom Dakich says he is “sick and tired” of Illinois residents passing through northwest Indiana on their way to southwest Michigan to spend their weekends and money. Dakich, as part of YAB Development Partners, says a $240 million mixed-use development in downtown Michigan City appears to be on track for a groundbreaking ceremony later this year. The project, called SoLa Development, will include two hotels, luxury condominiums and retail space on vacant land known as the “You Are Beautiful” site.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Dakich says this project will give people, either commuters or tourists, another reason to get off the interstate.
“People drive through it from Illinois to southwest Michigan. That’s fine, you do that. But I think we can get it to stop,” said Dakich.
LISTEN: Dakich further explains why he thinks the timing is right for this Michigan City development.
Dakich says the development, which was originally announced in March, includes two Wyndham Hotel-branded properties that will offer 235 rooms and a 12-story structure with views of Lake Michigan. The original project had one hotel. The project also includes 145 condominiums and 19 duplex homes. Dakich says the YAB property will include approximately 30,000-square-feet of retail space, including a grocery store and urgent care medical clinic.
While the initial investment is $240 million, Dakich believes the project will have an estimated $680 million in total economic impact over the next 15 years, including $123 million in total tax revenue.
“That’s a big number. The taxes of this $123 million for the taxes that are going to be paid for people that are living outside of Indiana, either moving here or creating their second home. It’s what’s going to happen because of this project,” Dakich said.
He says it will create about 275 full-time, year-round jobs and hundreds more seasonal jobs.
The property sits within walking distance of the commuter line, but just as important it is a short distance from Lake Michigan and its beaches.
“Bringing that money to Indiana in and making Michigan City not just a place that people drive past it as they’re going to Michigan but staying here and seeing the benefit of the marina and the dunes and the outlet mall and the casino and, and all this stuff is that’s our goal,” Dakich said, who grew up in northwest Indiana. “Michigan City, which is trying to figure out, ‘okay, we’re an industrial hub,’ but it also could be an important a really good beach town and a beach facility,”
He projects his project will bring 100,000 hotel stays annually.
“That doesn’t include those sorts of things that are going to be ancillary restaurants are going to pop up, I firmly believe that we’re going to fill this up,” said Dakich.
Dakich said the $649 million Double Track rail project was key in deciding to move forward with this project. The project will add 17 miles of new track, parallel to the existing line, from Michigan City to Gary. The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which operates the South Shore Line, expects to reduce travel time between Michigan City and Millennium Park in Chicago by 33 minutes.
“I think we’re doing a better job of demonstrating to the world, ‘don’t drive by us. Don’t fly over us. Give us a look,’” said Dakich.
Dakich credits organizations, like the Northwest Indiana Regional Partnership, of attracting Illinois residents and businesses to the Hoosier State.
“And that’s got to continue. That has to continue. We don’t we need to not look at ourselves as Chicago being this great, wonderful place. No, we’ve got our elements too, and they’re darn good,” emphasized Dakich.
Dakich says the development team has financing in place. He says the project also has support from local and state economic development officials.
Tentative plans call for groundbreaking in the fourth quarter of 2022 with the opening targeted for Memorial Day 2024.
The YAB project is one of several multi-use developments announced for the city. Indianapolis-based Flaherty and Collins announced plans in February for an $80 million, 12-story project. Like, YAB, Flaherty and Collins said the Double Track project was key.
Dakich says Michigan City is on the path for big change.
“I believe that in five years, Michigan City will be entirely different. And we’re just a piece of that.”