Aquatics center, storage units planned for former Merrillville showroom
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent October 24, 2012 8:52PM
Updated: November 26, 2012 7:14AM
MERRILLVILLE — A business owner Wednesday received the first round of approvals needed to transform the former Saturn dealership on U.S. 30 into an aquatics and fitness center with a retail store inside and personal storage rental units on the back 2 acres.
Merrillville attorney Mark Anderson, representing petitioner Douglas Gossage, told the Board of Zoning Appeals the storage units are needed in order for the project to be economically feasible.
The proposal still needs to go through the Plan Commission and Town Council. If approved at those levels, Gossage said he hopes to open the businesses in the spring.
Anderson said an in-ground pool with a 14-foot diving well would be installed in the building at 1794 W. 81st Ave. for scuba diving and swimming classes, as well as for physical therapy. Gossage said the pool temperature would be between 88 and 90 degrees.
Gossage, who also owns Goose’s Scuba in Dyer, said the new location would not only teach scuba diving classes to novices, but would also teach people to be scuba diving instructors.
Anderson said a fitness/cardio area with exercise equipment and fitness classes for kids through seniors would be toward the front of the 17,800-square-foot building. A retail store selling scuba and aquatics gear would be located in the former showroom.
Anderson said the storage units would be screened from U.S. 30.
Gossage said he would hire 30 new employees at the new location as he intends to keep his current one open as well.
BZA attorney William Touchette said the board needed to look at the request as a pair — the rental units and the aquatics/fitness center.
“If we were just looking at a storage unit, it probably would not be considered favorably. That said, the front business could close and the back business could remain open. The town really wants to keep the front business open,” Touchette said.
The building has been vacant since the Saturn dealership closed four years ago.
The BZA gave the approvals needed for both businesses, provided they are for this petitioner, location and use only.