Merrillville prepares to celebrate its 50th Birthday this year in December. The town has certainly grown in the past 5 decades now with over 35,000 residents and 12,000 individual households. We will also celebrate, and rightfully so, our beautiful diversity throughout the town that has changed in the past 50-years. We have seen many changes in our town. Everyone should remember some of our landmarks like the Radisson Hotel, the Star Plaza Theater where top-notch entertainers performed for many decades. The Twin Towers office complex with its orange tinted windows was the landmark telling motorist on I-65 that they have reached the Merrillville exit!
Today, the landscape has changed. The once prosperous corner is currently flat land, after the razing of the Radisson Hotel, the Star Plaza, and the Twin Towers and the land is now ready for new development. Changes are usually good as needs change in an area, business models change, and consumers demand new ideas. It is interesting to note that this location on the northwest corner of I-65 and U.S. Route 30 was chosen as the best location for a new convention center from a study ordered in 2016 by the Lake County Council. The feasibility study was done to determine the best location for a new convention center in Lake County. The second-best location, as the study showed, is also located in Merrillville at the Century Plaza shopping area on U.S. Route 30 and Broadway.
The Merrillville Food and Beverage Tax would be focused on stimulating needed economic growth and development in and around the U.S. Route 30 and I-65 corridor, which is one of the most sought-after commercial destinations within the United States, but currently possesses existing development opportunities. The 1% tax being proposed would concentrate on two main project areas: (1) a convention center, and (2) other development projects which would stimulate development and tourism. The Town Council agrees that these two areas would provide civic benefits such as needed meeting space and a greater variety of events, as well as significantly stimulate the local economy through additional visitors to the area and increased employment opportunities.
This is not a strange or new approach to tourism development and if passed, Merrillville will join 14 other Indiana municipalities that use this same food and beverage funding source to increase their tourism and convention development. To be clear, this is not a huge burden on guests who use local restaurants and bars in Merrillville and the tax is paid by the user and amounts to 1% of the total food or beverage tab. For example, on a $10.00 food and beverage bill, the tax would be 10-cents. Naturally all businesses would benefit by increased traffic that tourism generates, and it would create a thriving community that has the potential to generate higher property values for all property owners; a win-win for all residents and property owners in town. -Rick Bella