St. John continues to grow residentially | Local News

ST. JOHN — Ask Clerk-Treasurer Beth Hernandez what’s unique about her city, and she points to Christmas in the Park.

“This is one of the few Christmas events of its size in the Northwest Indiana area,” said Hernandez, who carried on the family tradition, now in his 18th year. The month-long program includes a fireworks show and the arrival of Santa Claus by either fire truck or helicopter.

“It grows every year in the participation of not only St. John residents, but also those who live throughout northwest Indiana,” the city clerk said.

As this community continues to grow, Hernandez said, the city grapples with the desire for growth while still maintaining that hometown feel.

Meanwhile, she said, the city’s property assessment is $1,695,346,546, a 10.2% growth from the previous year. Its population in 2020, also growing, was 20,303.

“St. John is an easy commute in the city of Chicago,” Hernandez said. “It’s a family community with great schools.”

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The 10th largest municipality in Lake County, St. John also has the lowest tax rate in the county. The city has seen residential growth, Hernandez said, with 558 new homes built in 2021, a 36% increase from the previous year.

New residential developments include:

• Parrish Woods, located on Parrish Avenue, is looking to bring 27 single family residences.

• Preserves, located at White Oak and 93rd Avenues, is looking to add 71 single-family homes.

• Gates of St. John on Highway 231, which will add 216 townhouses.

• St. John Commons, located at Calumet and 101st Avenue, is a planned mixed-use unit development, combining residential and commercial.

Commercially, Hernandez reported, Crew Car Wash, Culver’s and Centier Bank arrived in 2020 and Wendy’s joined last year. There are 8 acres available for development at Stores 96, the clerk said, adding, “The city is looking to open the lines of communication with the developer to move this project forward.”

Another project, coming from Schilling Development, is to add several restaurants with outdoor dining, a banquet hall and a boutique hotel on the west side of US 41. This project depends, Hernandez said, on the city’s acquisition of a waterfront district designation for the 96th Avenue property at 231.

“This designation is critical,” Hernandez said, “because it would allow liquor licensing at a very reasonable price, which would make Schilling’s proposal workable.”

Municipal plans include the addition of two new wells, which are expected to be operational in the spring of 2023.

St. John also works with SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), a system in which the city’s wells communicate with water towers. The water side of the project will be operational around April 2022, after which work will begin on the sewer side of this system.

“Ultimately the goal is to help maintain proper water levels in our towers,” Hernandez said. “This project helps the town provide water and become less dependent on the Town of Schererville for supplemental water distribution.”

Elsewhere, the Indiana Department of Transportation is adding a median turn lane on US 41 from 96th Avenue to 231. Although that project has been delayed, the clerk said, that work should be complete around June.

Additionally, the 96th Avenue expansion project was completed in 2021. This road stretches from Joliet Street which leads to the Shops 96 area.

Parks were also busy, Hernandez said, including the city’s first skate park. Gates Skate Park, located on the east side of town near Cline Avenue, will begin construction in late March, with a target completion date of late June.

A playground will be added to Gates Park, adjacent to Park Place. The goal, Hernandez said, is to finish the skate park and playground around the same time.

Work on Founders Park will resume in March, the clerk said, with that project expected to be completed between mid and late May. This park includes a playground, a walking path, a pavilion and a parking lot.

As part of public safety, the city added a license plate reader on US 41 near Lake Central High School. These devices help combat the overflow of carjackings and stolen vehicles from Chicagoland.

The St. John Police Department added a second K-9 unit. This allows the police to have a dog in each crew. Raider, the new dog, joins Match in the force.

“K-9 found seniors on assignments, children, and detected large amounts of illegal drugs,” Hernandez noted.

The fire department is now a permanent child safety seat fitting station. This allows the public to come to St. John to ensure their child’s car seat is properly installed.

Firefighter Mike Sharp supported the Safe Sleep initiative for the fire department. This program helps families who need safe sleeping environments for their infants.

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