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Old 03-24-2015, 09:01 PM
 
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Since many of you on the forum have negative things to say about the town of Merrillville, I wanted to get your opinions on what you think town administrators/developers should do to make the community the best it can possibly be.

I think this inner-ring suburb can be a fantastic place in the future. I do think that many of the vacant/for sale buildings along north Broadway should be torn down and the sites should be repurposed for sustainable development/new urbanist type developments. The urban planning now and in the future of Merrillville will be a tough challenge in order to be environmentally responsible and sustainable. Very hard to reverse the sprawl cycle. Better mass transit will need to be introduced in not only Merrillville, but all around NWI. The biggest development project in the United States' future is retrofitting the suburbs to become more sustainable, and I think Merrillville, if done right, can lead NWI in this. Sprawl is unhealthy all around. In my opinion, Merrillville can become "tomorrow's today" so to speak, so what are your thoughts on making the Pirate community a great place to live, work, and play?
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Old 03-25-2015, 05:02 AM
 
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HOUSING

The town needs to maintain a moratorium on the construction of new apartments (which I know they have pretty much done) as the town is saturated with apartments and rentals in general, which does not provide for a stable area. The town needs to continue to focus on supporting single-family, owner occupied residences. I see that the Foxmoor subdivision is finally moving forward again. They need to do their best to attract people who desire executive-style homes such as those in Bridgewater. There are people who desire to live in Merrillville but in order to get the style of home they want and Merrillville schools, they need to move to White Hawk in CP. There are some relatively new neighborhoods like Prairie Creek that already have homes that are looking tired. Merrillville needs to crack down on code enforcement. There are numerous signs in Merrillville town limits and in the school district pointing south to the availability of new homes in Crown Point. This continues to hurt Merrillville as well. Also, Merrillville is also focusing on the older areas especially in north Merrillville. This is really good and crucial to stabilizing the town as well! The older housing stock in north Merrillville is far more attractive and stylish and neater than the older housing stock in central/southern Merrillville. I have seen some nicely rehabbed homes for sale. The key word is "for sale" not "for rent"...Owner-occupied should be the focus!

SCHOOLS

Merrillville schools are not highly regarded. While much of it has to do, unfortunately, with the fact that it is a majority-minority (mostly Black) school, much of it also has to do with the fact that for a suburban area, it has a high level of students living in poverty, families involved in the social services system, crime, etc. The school facilities for the most part are acceptable (the high school and pierce middle school are very nice physically), but as the population in the district continues to grow to the south and southeast, the town needs to do a study to determine the needs of the population south of 30. I know the school district owns land on 93rd between Prairie Point Apartments and the Pentecostal church. The land is enough for an elementary school but south of 30 really needs an intermediate school as well. Having to go from the area between 93rd Ave & 101st Ave to 61st Ave is a trek and what about the area of Merrillville near deep river? It is not as populated now but with the growth that occurred in Winfield and Union Township, it skipped right over Merrillville. IF Merrillville desires to see growth south of 30 in the area close to the county line, they need to think about the schools as well and they need to focus on upscale developments as well.

CRIME

Crime in Merrilllville (excluding retail crimes) is not at an acceptable level for a suburban area. Places like Munster and Dyer are safe AND close to the city for people who work and have good schools. But many people cannot afford the type of house they desire in those areas. So for many, they choose to farther away in a place like Crown Point but that is safe and with good schools. If people need to move to place that may not be as safe or have as good as schools, it is usually because it is cheaper and very close to work. But while Merrillville property values are not very high, it also isn't that cheap of an area (especially for rentals) and it is not close enough to the city for people to justify moving there when the crime is much higher than places only a little further south or east and those places are not too much more expensive. The mall seems to be making strides to improve, but the town needs to be vigilant as mall continues to be questionable. The police in Merrillville need to be seen and neighborhood crime watch groups need to be supported. Also, I feel that some apartment communities that used to be gated should revisit the idea and maybe some current apartment communities can become gated as well. I know this will help cut down on crime too.

SHOPPING

Merrillville is already known as a hub for shopping of all kinds. They have also done a good job attracting new luxury car dealers (Acura, Lexus, Infiniti); however, the Munster/Highland/Schererville market area and the Valpo market area (while not as big) are focusing their efforts on attracting upscale shopping. Same thing with Crown Point. Merrillville needs to do the same. It will be a battle as the demographics are not as strong as the other areas (especially compared to the first market I listed) but it already has the advantage of being right where 65 is. Many areas with an upscale mall typically also have a more mid-scale mall nearby (e.g. Oak Brook and Yorktown; Fashion Mall and Keystone). I think for Merrillville it would probably be Southlake and Crown Point Galleria; however, it could also be Southlake and maybe a town center type development east along 30 towards deep river. I know this is technically "Hobart/Crown Point" but it would benefit Merrillville as well. That probably won't happen, but just a thought!
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Old 03-25-2015, 07:57 AM
 
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The politically correct answer (and I agree with it 100%) is above. The non-PC answer is to somehow change the perception that people who don't live in Merrillville have that the town is headed down the same path that Gary went down. How exactly to do that, is far above my pay grade, and perhaps not possible given how many people in the area have this perception (not saying it's right, just saying it's true).

Although, I think a good starting point would be to knock down the apartment complexes that statistically are the most troublesome when it comes to crime and drug trade (primarily on the northern end of the town). Also addressing the blighted properties, re-paving simple things like sidewalks, and actually enforcing codes are easier fixes that help start change the image of the downward trajectory of the town.

There is no reason to believe that the town will be among the most desirable in Northwest Indiana. It's a blue collar town with blue collar people, and that's what it's always been, and that's perfectly fine. However, if the question of this thread is the how to make it the best it can be, I would agree with the post above and emphasize cleaning up the town and knocking down problematic apartment complexes as a good starting point. Before housing stock, before shopping options, before a lot of other things that people can look into when trying to decide where to live, you have to at least get people to CONSIDER living in the town. Right now, Merrillville is not many people's list of towns to consider, again, due to the perception.
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Old 03-25-2015, 09:12 AM
 
255 posts, read 415,796 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Northwest Indiana View Post
HOUSING

The town needs to maintain a moratorium on the construction of new apartments (which I know they have pretty much done) as the town is saturated with apartments and rentals in general, which does not provide for a stable area. The town needs to continue to focus on supporting single-family, owner occupied residences. I see that the Foxmoor subdivision is finally moving forward again. They need to do their best to attract people who desire executive-style homes such as those in Bridgewater. There are people who desire to live in Merrillville but in order to get the style of home they want and Merrillville schools, they need to move to White Hawk in CP. There are some relatively new neighborhoods like Prairie Creek that already have homes that are looking tired. Merrillville needs to crack down on code enforcement. There are numerous signs in Merrillville town limits and in the school district pointing south to the availability of new homes in Crown Point. This continues to hurt Merrillville as well. Also, Merrillville is also focusing on the older areas especially in north Merrillville. This is really good and crucial to stabilizing the town as well! The older housing stock in north Merrillville is far more attractive and stylish and neater than the older housing stock in central/southern Merrillville. I have seen some nicely rehabbed homes for sale. The key word is "for sale" not "for rent"...Owner-occupied should be the focus!

SCHOOLS

Merrillville schools are not highly regarded. While much of it has to do, unfortunately, with the fact that it is a majority-minority (mostly Black) school, much of it also has to do with the fact that for a suburban area, it has a high level of students living in poverty, families involved in the social services system, crime, etc. The school facilities for the most part are acceptable (the high school and pierce middle school are very nice physically), but as the population in the district continues to grow to the south and southeast, the town needs to do a study to determine the needs of the population south of 30. I know the school district owns land on 93rd between Prairie Point Apartments and the Pentecostal church. The land is enough for an elementary school but south of 30 really needs an intermediate school as well. Having to go from the area between 93rd Ave & 101st Ave to 61st Ave is a trek and what about the area of Merrillville near deep river? It is not as populated now but with the growth that occurred in Winfield and Union Township, it skipped right over Merrillville. IF Merrillville desires to see growth south of 30 in the area close to the county line, they need to think about the schools as well and they need to focus on upscale developments as well.

CRIME

Crime in Merrilllville (excluding retail crimes) is not at an acceptable level for a suburban area. Places like Munster and Dyer are safe AND close to the city for people who work and have good schools. But many people cannot afford the type of house they desire in those areas. So for many, they choose to farther away in a place like Crown Point but that is safe and with good schools. If people need to move to place that may not be as safe or have as good as schools, it is usually because it is cheaper and very close to work. But while Merrillville property values are not very high, it also isn't that cheap of an area (especially for rentals) and it is not close enough to the city for people to justify moving there when the crime is much higher than places only a little further south or east and those places are not too much more expensive. The mall seems to be making strides to improve, but the town needs to be vigilant as mall continues to be questionable. The police in Merrillville need to be seen and neighborhood crime watch groups need to be supported. Also, I feel that some apartment communities that used to be gated should revisit the idea and maybe some current apartment communities can become gated as well. I know this will help cut down on crime too.

SHOPPING

Merrillville is already known as a hub for shopping of all kinds. They have also done a good job attracting new luxury car dealers (Acura, Lexus, Infiniti); however, the Munster/Highland/Schererville market area and the Valpo market area (while not as big) are focusing their efforts on attracting upscale shopping. Same thing with Crown Point. Merrillville needs to do the same. It will be a battle as the demographics are not as strong as the other areas (especially compared to the first market I listed) but it already has the advantage of being right where 65 is. Many areas with an upscale mall typically also have a more mid-scale mall nearby (e.g. Oak Brook and Yorktown; Fashion Mall and Keystone). I think for Merrillville it would probably be Southlake and Crown Point Galleria; however, it could also be Southlake and maybe a town center type development east along 30 towards deep river. I know this is technically "Hobart/Crown Point" but it would benefit Merrillville as well. That probably won't happen, but just a thought!
How does Merrillville sustainably grow with a focus on the future without adding too much to the area's already high level of pollution? Upscale transit oriented, mixed-use developments throughout the town would be my answer. The train tracks just south of 61st Ave at Broadway near the vacant Y&W site would be the ones where a South Shore extension to Valparaiso would come through. Maybe the administration should start planning for a future TOD.

How could they grow in the rural areas of Merrillville/Ross Township without making it another hodge podge of sprawl? I agree with many of your comments, but I would need in depth data about the crime in the town as opposed to similar areas such as Hobart and Portage. Merrillville is in a tough situation in regards to being a part of the sprawl cycle, having a less than stellar perception, and many tired areas. A revitalization of the 73rd and north Broadway corridors will be key as well. I'm very optimistic though on Merrillville.
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Old 03-25-2015, 09:15 AM
 
255 posts, read 415,796 times
Reputation: 248
Quote:
Originally Posted by svillechris View Post
The politically correct answer (and I agree with it 100%) is above. The non-PC answer is to somehow change the perception that people who don't live in Merrillville have that the town is headed down the same path that Gary went down. How exactly to do that, is far above my pay grade, and perhaps not possible given how many people in the area have this perception (not saying it's right, just saying it's true).

Although, I think a good starting point would be to knock down the apartment complexes that statistically are the most troublesome when it comes to crime and drug trade (primarily on the northern end of the town). Also addressing the blighted properties, re-paving simple things like sidewalks, and actually enforcing codes are easier fixes that help start change the image of the downward trajectory of the town.

There is no reason to believe that the town will be among the most desirable in Northwest Indiana. It's a blue collar town with blue collar people, and that's what it's always been, and that's perfectly fine. However, if the question of this thread is the how to make it the best it can be, I would agree with the post above and emphasize cleaning up the town and knocking down problematic apartment complexes as a good starting point. Before housing stock, before shopping options, before a lot of other things that people can look into when trying to decide where to live, you have to at least get people to CONSIDER living in the town. Right now, Merrillville is not many people's list of towns to consider, again, due to the perception.
If you knock down the north side apartment complexes, where do the current residents go and what do you suggest the remaining acreage become? Which complexes are problematic in your eyes and why? How do you suggest getting people to consider the town or Ross Township over places like Hobart, Portage, Crown Point, etc?
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Old 03-25-2015, 09:52 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by valpofan11 View Post
If you knock down the north side apartment complexes, where do the current residents go?
They would go elsewhere, which is the ultimate goal. Probably to other low rent, zero security deposit, section 8 accepting complexes. Minimize those options, and you minimize the amount of those types of renters which have a correlation with drug/gang/crime issues.

Highland knocked down "The Highlands" apartment complex years ago that was on the north side of town along the expressway when that started to become problematic. That was smart, and has helped keep the town safe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by valpofan11 View Post
what do you suggest the remaining acreage become?
Parks, of any kind. Kid park, dog park, park with just trees... any of those would be better.

Quote:
Originally Posted by valpofan11 View Post
Which complexes are problematic in your eyes and why?
I don't know the specific names of most, but Northwest Indiana (the poster) probably does. The police know which are most problematic based on crime statistics. There's your starting point.


Quote:
Originally Posted by valpofan11 View Post
How do you suggest getting people to consider the town or Ross Township over places like Hobart, Portage, Crown Point, etc?
Schools. Improving schools is almost always going to be my first response on how to make a town more desirable. For one, Merrillville schools should stop accepting kids that actually live in Gary and actually enforce the proof of residence requirements. But, the best way to improve schools is to attract high character residents to your district, which typically will again come down to raising the ratio of property owners/property renters.
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Old 03-25-2015, 10:12 AM
 
255 posts, read 415,796 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by svillechris View Post
They would go elsewhere, which is the ultimate goal. Probably to other low rent, zero security deposit, section 8 accepting complexes. Minimize those options, and you minimize the amount of those types of renters which have a correlation with drug/gang/crime issues.

Highland knocked down "The Highlands" apartment complex years ago that was on the north side of town along the expressway when that started to become problematic. That was smart, and has helped keep the town safe.



Parks, of any kind. Kid park, dog park, park with just trees... any of those would be better.



I don't know the specific names of most, but Northwest Indiana (the poster) probably does. The police know which are most problematic based on crime statistics. There's your starting point.




Schools. Improving schools is almost always going to be my first response on how to make a town more desirable. For one, Merrillville schools should stop accepting kids that actually live in Gary and actually enforce the proof of residence requirements. But, the best way to improve schools is to attract high character residents to your district, which typically will again come down to raising the ratio of property owners/property renters.
Although that's a decent assumption, how can you prove that dozens of Gary kids are illegally attending Merrillville? I know of a good amount of cases in Valparaiso where kids have listed relatives addresses just to attend VHS, it happens everywhere, many districts flat out don't know about illegally enrolled students. The schools, IMO, are very solid. Yes the district is minority-majority, but that shouldn't matter. A diverse district is a great asset and that is how Dr. Tony Lux sees it at Merrillville. The teachers are motivated to help the kids and it is still a solid district. (I've been to MHS to shadow for a day, and the teachers did a great job, IMO) Merrillville HS was rated an "A" school by the IDOE last year. Its graduation rate has exceeded Valpo HS the past 2 years, just saying.

You are going to have unmotivated, lower performing students anywhere. I firmly believe that if you have the tools to work hard, are motivated to learn, and have a good support system, you can be successful anywhere whether it be Munster, Valpo, Merrillville, Hammond, etc.
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Old 03-25-2015, 10:47 AM
 
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Originally Posted by valpofan11 View Post
Although that's a decent assumption, how can you prove that dozens of Gary kids are illegally attending Merrillville? I know of a good amount of cases in Valparaiso where kids have listed relatives addresses just to attend VHS, it happens everywhere, many districts flat out don't know about illegally enrolled students. The schools, IMO, are very solid. Yes the district is minority-majority, but that shouldn't matter. A diverse district is a great asset and that is how Dr. Tony Lux sees it at Merrillville. The teachers are motivated to help the kids and it is still a solid district. (I've been to MHS to shadow for a day, and the teachers did a great job, IMO) Merrillville HS was rated an "A" school by the IDOE last year. Its graduation rate has exceeded Valpo HS the past 2 years, just saying.

You are going to have unmotivated, lower performing students anywhere. I firmly believe that if you have the tools to work hard, are motivated to learn, and have a good support system, you can be successful anywhere whether it be Munster, Valpo, Merrillville, Hammond, etc.
The Merrillville Community School Corp overall has seen only 1 year in the last 5 with ECA test scores at or above the state average. Zero of the last 9 years (and probably more) has Merrillville Community School Corp seen ISTEP scores at or above the state average, and most years have been nowhere close to the state average. As for the high school, personally I think the letter grades from the DOE can be ridiculous because they factor in "improvement", which may heavily benefit the poorer performing schools relative to the better performing schools because the better schools don't have as much room to improve. I also think that graduation rates should definitely be taken with a grain of salt, as there are ways that schools and guidance departments can manipulate a student's schedule/path to graduation to increase those numbers. Not saying that Merrillville fudged their graduation numbers, but I am saying that I don't think that figure and that alone is the best metric to look at when determining strength of a high school. When you look at, in my opinion, the more representative data such as ECA passing trends of high schoolers, Merrillville HS is again at or below state averages. The other great piece of data is students that take and pass an AP exam. In both of those categories, Merrillville High School falls way short of state averages, and even farther short of the best districts in the area.

Not to mention, that Merrillville schools, with over half of their student population on free/reduced lunch, receives significantly more per-pupil money from the state to run their district compared to Munster, Lake Central, Crown Point, and Valparaiso, etc. So not only is Merrillville nowhere close to the aforementioned districts statistically, they're also using tax dollars less efficiently when you compare the results to the amount of money they're given from the state.

Last edited by svillechris; 03-25-2015 at 10:57 AM..
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Old 03-25-2015, 11:12 AM
 
255 posts, read 415,796 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by svillechris View Post
The Merrillville Community School Corp overall has seen only 1 year in the last 5 with ECA test scores at or above the state average. Zero of the last 9 years (and probably more) has Merrillville Community School Corp seen ISTEP scores at or above the state average, and most years have been nowhere close to the state average. As for the high school, personally I think the letter grades from the DOE can be ridiculous because they factor in "improvement", which may heavily benefit the poorer performing schools relative to the better performing schools because the better schools don't have as much room to improve. I also think that graduation rates should definitely be taken with a grain of salt, as there are ways that schools and guidance departments can manipulate a student's schedule/path to graduation to increase those numbers. Not saying that Merrillville fudged their graduation numbers, but I am saying that I don't think that figure and that alone is the best metric to look at when determining strength of a high school. When you look at, in my opinion, the more representative data such as ECA passing trends of high schoolers, Merrillville HS is again at or below state averages. The other great piece of data is students that take and pass an AP exam. In both of those categories, Merrillville High School falls way short of state averages, and even farther short of the best districts in the area.

Not to mention, that Merrillville schools, with over half of their student population on free/reduced lunch, receives significantly more per-pupil money from the state to run their district compared to Munster, Lake Central, Crown Point, and Valparaiso, etc. So not only is Merrillville nowhere close to the aforementioned districts statistically, they're also using tax dollars less efficiently when you compare the results to the amount of money they're given from the state.
The testing info you give is true. Does the data make Merrillville less of a good school? I don't think so, as people have said Merrillville has a higher poverty rate than adjacent suburban areas, and kids that are poorer struggle more with the testing. Richer people love standardized testing because the richer you are, the better on average you will do. A simple number or numbers on a piece of paper does not make you a better or worse person. I'm going to stay as positive as I can on Merrillville cause I believe it still can be a great place if you focus on the positives and go from there to work to make it an even better place. Just my 2 cents.
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Old 03-25-2015, 11:25 AM
 
811 posts, read 2,339,250 times
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Originally Posted by valpofan11 View Post
The testing info you give is true. Does the data make Merrillville less of a good school? I don't think so, as people have said Merrillville has a higher poverty rate than adjacent suburban areas, and kids that are poorer struggle more with the testing. Richer people love standardized testing because the richer you are, the better on average you will do. A simple number or numbers on a piece of paper does not make you a better or worse person. I'm going to stay as positive as I can on Merrillville cause I believe it still can be a great place if you focus on the positives and go from there to work to make it an even better place. Just my 2 cents.
Fair enough and I certainly don't think Merrillville schools are terrible... they're not Gary or Hammond or East Chicago, but by no metric can we say they're high quality. I don't know where the "does not make you a better person" comes from, I never said anything of the sort.

When trying to determine the best spot to live and along with that, determining what schools a parent may want to send their child to, somewhere along the line you have to look at SOMETHING that gives you confidence that the school is doing well. I just don't see what that something is, with Merrillville. My personal views, that's all.

Also, knowing all too well that children are very influenced by their peers, why would I as a parent want to place my kids in a school system that has a high rate of kids from poverty-stricken families, that do not even do as well as a state average in school? If I could hand pick my kids' peers, that wouldn't be who I would pick, so why enroll my kids in a school corporation where that is more of the norm? I would have to question my own parenting skills if I made that choice for my kids.

Getting back to the original question... these are all reasons why many people immediately cross Merrillville off their list of potential towns to live in and raise their family in.
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