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Gary wants to sell former charter school on lake

The Gary Redevelopment Commissiplans sell this lakefront property Miller lis being marketed for development as hotel. The former charter school

The Gary Redevelopment Commission plans to sell this lakefront property in Miller and the land is being marketed for development as a hotel. The former charter school is at 860 N. Lake St. | Carole Carlson/Post-Tribune

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Updated: January 5, 2014 6:17AM

GARY — A vacant charter school that sits on Lake Michigan could become the site of a lakefront hotel.

The Redevelopment Commission plans to put the 5-acre property at 860 N. Lake St. up for sale, possibly late this month or early next year.

The commission has retained CBRE Group Inc., a national commercial real estate services and investment firm, to sell the property that’s expected to be marketed as a 150-room hotel. It would be the first stand-alone lakefront hotel in Northwest Indiana.

The property is adjacent to land owned by the National Park Service. Acting Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Superintendent Garry Traynham has been in on some of the early discussions on future development of the site and he supported the idea.

“We’re certainly not opposed ... as long as it’s not obtrusive. We haven’t talked about specifics. Right now it’s just a concept,” he said.

J. Forest Hayes, president of the Redevelopment Commission and director of the city’s Department of Commerce, said there will be a series of public meetings held before any deal on the land is made final.

Hayes said, so far, he hasn’t received any negative feedback on the plan.

“We want the community to be involved in the design,” he said. “The important part is to select the right developer. I’m looking for something that blends in into the site and doesn’t obstruct views.”

Hayes said the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore park is interested in taking space in the hotel to market its attractions to tourists. Besides the swimming beach, there’s a launch for jet skies and trails in the nearby park and at the Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education, also on Lake Street.

Speros Batistatos, president of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, said he wasn’t aware of the proposal.

“I don’t know anything about the project. The administration hasn’t reached out to my office to in regard to marketing. Nobody talked to us,” he said.

Miller resident Richard Barnes, a former board member of the Miller Citizens Corp., said he’ll be interested in seeing who the hotel’s investors are. “The contract will go to someone who’s plugged in,” he said.

Environmentalist Lee Botts, who also lives in Miller, sees a proposed hotel as a complicated issue.

“I believe there must be more conversation,” she said.

Although she didn’t oppose the idea, Botts said she didn’t believe many Chicagoans would travel to Miller to stay in the hotel.

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