SUSAN ERLER, Times of Northwest Indiana

CHESTERTON | A deal to build a hospital is being pursued for Coffee Creek Center, according to the center's owner.

"We're working with a hospital," said James Gierczyk, who last year bought most of the 640 acres in Coffee Creek Center and has been working to develop it.

Gierczyk said he could not name the hospital or provide further details Monday, but it is not the new facility Porter hospital officials are negotiating to build with a new owner.

The possibility of a new entry in the local hospital arena came as officials of Porter hospital move toward a May 1 closing on the sale of the Porter County-owned facility to Triad Hospitals Inc.

Porter hospital officials weren't aware of plans for another full-service, acute-care hospital in the area, "other than the one we plan to construct after the sale to Triad," said Deb Butterfield, Porter vice president of marketing and media relations.

The pending sale of Porter hospital has sparked interest from other medical care providers in locating in Porter County.

"There's lots of action because of the Porter (hospital) situation," said Patrick Bankston, director of the Indiana University Medical School. "But I don't know anything more than the rumors everyone hears."

Porter hospital officials "know there are probably other groups or entities interested in this market," Butterfield said.

"But we also believe there will already be a new state-of-the-art facility constructed with the expertise and financial investment of a national health care provider," she said, referring to plans by Triad to build a new facility to replace the current Porter hospital.

Gierczyk bought major parcels of Coffee Creek as part of a June agreement with previous owner Lake Erie Land Co., a subsidiary of energy provider NiSource Inc.

Gierczyk, who is also lead developer, has said he plans to move Coffee Creek in a new direction, away from its original intent as an urban community of pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods of homes built closer to sidewalks and on smaller lots than in subdivisions.

The concept failed to catch on, and by last year only about a dozen homes stood on land in the development.

Gierczyk said Monday he's moving forward with a commercial component to the development, which he plans to present to town officials in about 30 days.

He said he has written contracts for homes on 93 residential lots, ranging in price from $350,000 to $450,000, and is evaluating a contract for a 240-unit, upscale apartment complex on Ind. 49 in Coffee Creek.

A separate contractor, Steger, Ill.-based Phillippe Builders, is set to break ground on townhomes.

Another dozen lots have been sold in the adjoining, and more upscale, Sand Creek development, Gierczyk said.

The planned new construction will help to justify a tax incentive program provided to Coffee Creek at its inception, Gierczyk said.

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