Oct. 04–A new $350 million development is being planned by White Lodging at the site formerly occupied by the Radisson and Star Plaza Theatre.

White Lodging announced Wednesday it plans a more than $350 million development, dubbed The Farm at Crossroad Commons, that the Merrillville-based company called "transformative." The 40-acre development is a "mixed use" project that will combine hotels, event spaces, office space and restaurants, according to a White Lodging presentation.

"This project will serve as a long-standing anchor for economic development and a true transformational destination for visitors to the Region — just as the Radisson and Star Plaza Theatre did for so many years," said Bruce White, chairman of White Lodging, in a statement.

Richard Hardaway, president of the Merrillville Town Council, said the project will have a major econmic impact on not just the town but the whole county.

"We're excited about it," Hardaway said.

White Lodging, the White family and other groups plan to privately fund 67 percent of the project's cost, according to the company, and will seek public financing for the remaining 33 percent.

The 40-acre development will include hotels, a bed and breakfast, restaurants, town homes, meeting and event space, office space, underground parking garage, a riding area and greenhouse, according to the company. The development as a whole will be more than 1.1 million gross square feet.

Hardaway said he thought the combination of the hotels, restaurants and meeting space will draw people to the area.

"I think it will be a destination for people," Hardaway said.

White Lodging says the new development will create more than 600 construction jobs, and 1,000 direct and indirect jobs.

During a 10-year period, the development is expected to generate roughly $45 million in new property tax revenue, according to a company presentation.

White Lodging says "The Farms at Crossroad Commons" will be an unmatched development.

"That uniqueness is key to its appeal to our community and visitors to the convention center," White Lodging said, in a presentation.

White Lodging this year demolished the Star Plaza Theatre and Radisson, giving the company a parcel of land to develop near U.S. 30 and Interstate 65. The company plans to tear down the Twin Towers office complex as well.

Hardaway said the Star Plaza and Radisson were a part of Merrillville's identity and the new project will put the town back to where it was when those facilities were open.

White Lodging's announcement that it would tear down the Radisson and Star Plaza in 2016, sent Lake County officials to the Regional Development Authority to see if a new convention center in the region would be possible.

The study, which was released this summer, identified five top sites for a convention center, with two in Merrillville, one in Hobart, one in Gary and one in Hammond.

The convention center will need an adjacent 225-room, full-service hotel; 400 other rooms within walking distance; and 700 hotel rooms in the immediate area.

One of the Merrillville sites was the White Lodging property.

Company officials say their plans were already in the works before the RDA began its convention center study.

Hardaway said if a convention center in Merrillville could come up, it would complement the White Lodging project. Hardaway said it could lead to new development at the Century Plaza as well.

"That means a lot to Merrillville," Hardaway said.

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