By Patrick Guinane, Times of Northwest Indiana
patrick.guinane@nwi.com

INDIANAPOLIS | East Chicago will receive $1.9 million to bolster its long-term revitalization plan for the North Harbor neighborhood, Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman announced Wednesday.

"That's a great number for us," said John Artis, executive director of the East Chicago Redevelopment Department. "The money the state is going to be providing to us will go a long ways toward furthering the vision we have for the North Harbor redevelopment initiative."

The federal neighborhood revitalization dollars will help finance new residential construction, including a 60-unit building for seniors, rental properties and townhouses available to buy. It's part of a major overhaul of the neighborhood centered at Broadway and Main.

The city, which had requested $4.6 million, currently is developing 75 townhouses, and it has spent more than $10 million on park and street improvements in North Harbor since 2006. A zoning change prohibits bars and liquor stores from locating in the neighborhood.

The city is working with The Community Builders and the Hispanic Housing Development Corp., both nonprofits. East Chicago is one of 21 communities that will share $50 million in neighborhood revitalization funding Indiana received last fall.

"The neighborhoods can buy these properties to demolish or redevelop, but they can also provide financial assistance to (home) buyers," Skillman said. "The ultimate goal is to revitalize neighborhoods, and at the same time we're helping more Hoosiers put down roots in a home and climb the economic ladder."

Skillman is using the remaining $33 million of Indiana's $83 million stabilization grant to offer up to $15,000 -- or 20 percent of purchase price -- in down-payment assistance to Hoosiers who buy or rehabilitate foreclosed homes. The assistance comes in the form of a no-interest loan that does not have to be repaid if the purchaser lives in the home for 10 years.

"We're the only state that took this two-tiered approach, from what we can tell," Skillman said.

Gary and Hammond each received $3.8 million in direct neighborhood revitalization funds from Congress last year, while Lake County got $5.7 million.

Information about the East Chicago grant and statewide assistance program for foreclosed-home buyers can be found at www.in.gov/ihcda.

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