New $20 million spec building to bring hundreds of jobs to East Chicago

EAST CHICAGO — A new modern light-industrial warehouse building rose out of the prairie at the site of the former Edward Valve Plant after extensive environmental remediation.

Chicago-based developer The Missner Group built a 249,000-square-foot building at 4400 Homerlee Ave. Mayor Anthony Copeland estimates it could bring 300 to 500 jobs, depending on what tenant or tenants ultimately move in.

“I’m proud to be part of the project,” he said during an open house celebrating the facility’s completion Tuesday. “We saw something that was a terrible, terrible eyesore. This was horrendous. See what’s been built in its place. If you build it, they will come.”

The building is speculative, meaning it was built without a tenant lined up. It’s a 250,000-square-foot box that can be leased by a logistics or light industrial firm. It, for instance, could potentially be used for kitting, a final assembly step before goods get shipped to market.

Lake County Economic Alliance President and CEO Karen Lauerman estimates the total investment is around $23 million, including about $20 million for the construction of the building.

“When the end user comes in, we look at the jobs and the local option income tax that comes off that payroll. We’ve turned a vacant site into a newly taxable location,” she said. “It helps offset city costs. It improves city services. This is going to continue to build the city as a city of progress and hope.”

The previous owner did intensive environmental remediation, clearing the way for the redevelopment.

“They deal with a lot of nasty stuff — paint solvents and all that,” Copeland said. “We were nervous some of that might have reached the ground.”

Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce Dave Ryan said it was one of the first spec buildings to be built in East Chicago in 25 years.

“It’s speculative without anybody coming in. That shows great confidence in the city, the mayor, the council and so forth,” he said. “That’s the first step in other things coming. The business climate here is much improved.”

DarwinPW Realty Associate Marc Hale said there was a significant amount of interest.

“We do have some whole building interest and groups that are interested in just part of it,” he said. “We’ve had interest from Italy, Europe, Chicago, Indiana, all over the country.”

They hope to have the property leased in the next 30-60 days.

“A lot of people want to relocate in Northwest Indiana because Indiana’s a great state to do business in,” DarwinRP Realty Principal Edward C. Wabick said. “People look at that as a positive.”

There’s not a lot of shovel-ready inventory like 4000 Homerlee out on the market.

“The Chicagoland market, including Northwest Indiana, is the second or third largest industrial market in the country after California and New York/New Jersey,” Wabisk said. “You have all the ports. You have water. You have rail. You have power. There’s an inland port out in Joliet where railroads come in from all over the country. I-80’s the hub. You drive I-80 and see all the trucks. That explains everything. People want to be nearby. And of course labor. There’s labor. This site is close enough to bring labor from Illinois. And Chicago’s the only market with all Class 6 railroads. There’s connectivity.” 

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