La PORTE — La Porte officials are looking to jump-start future development at a trio of sites in the city — including the dormant Maple Lane Mall.

On Monday, the La Porte City Council passed a resolution that would expand the city's Urban Enterprise Zone to include three new properties:

• The 17-acre Maple Lane Mall and adjacent land, located on Ind. 2.
• The La Porte Fire Department Station No. 3, located at 105 Boyd Blvd.
• 240, 242 and 244 Pine Lake Ave. and an adjacent 1.46 acres of vacant land

With the council's approval, the La Porte Urban Enterprise Association, which oversees the Enterprise Zone, will hold a final vote Wednesday on whether to admit the properties into the existing four-square-mile business district.

By adding the parcels to enterprise zone, city leaders will be able to offer tax deductions, investment credits and other incentives to private developers that currently own or are interested in acquiring the properties.

The mall, fire station and Pine Lake Avenue land are three areas that are "very important to the city," said Mayor Tom Dermody.

The reuse of the Maple Lane Mall site, in particular, has been an oft-discussed topic by city officials since the westside property lost its last tenant in March 2017. Rural King, a national farm and home department store, has owned the property since October 2017, though the company has yet to open a store at the location.

"We've talked about some changes that are planning to happen in that area...[this] will get some resources on the table that can help with that process," said Bert Cook, executive director with the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership and vice president of the UEA.

Dhyani Realty LLC, which owns the Pine Lake Avenue properties, would also benefit from the enterprise zone tools, Cook said. The company — which has demolished two homes on the strip of land, with plans to destroy the third home soon — plans to take advantage of the program to perform development there, he said.

Finally, the city is in talks with a company interested in acquiring the Boyd Boulevard fire station, which the fire department plans to move out of once construction finishes on its new No. 3 Fire House on Daytona Street. As part of the proposed deal, the firm is asking for the city to add the building to the enterprise zone, allowing it to take advantage of the program's incentives, Cook said.

More than 450 businesses are currently part of the La Porte Urban Enterprise Zone, established in 2002 to promote job creation and new business opportunities in the city. In addition to spurring development, the zone offers grant dollars to existing downtown and industrial businesses for façade, signage and other improvements, Cook said.

Also on Monday, Dermody introduced the city's new planner, Tom Casey, to the council. Casey took over the office earlier this month, taking over from Beth Shrader, who resigned last month to take a position with the city of Valparaiso.

Before his new gig at city hall, Casey spent 30 years in industrial real estate development. He spent more than 20 years with commercial realtor Space Center Inc., where he helped lead the acquisition, redevelopment and expansion of the former Whirlpool facility at La Porte's Thomas Rose Industrial Park more than 10 years ago, he said.

"I'm really looking to learning and doing whatever I can to give back to the city of La Porte," he said.

"Not only is he going to be a fantastic planner, but he's bringing some leadership to city hall," Dermody said. "We're excited to have him."

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