Hammond gets money for Woodmar wellness center

CATEGORY: City Planning, Community Development, News

By Edwin Bierschenk
Original article here.

City officials will start more in-depth design work for a community wellness center at the former Woodmar Mall site with word that the city will receive $8.7 million in federal money for the project.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development late Monday announced approval of the loan guarantee to finance the facility’s construction.

Now that the city has received word of the approval, “we can really do the major planning for this facility,” Phil Taillon, executive director of the city’s planning and development department, said Tuesday.

Antonio R. Riley, HUD Midwest Region administrator, said the loan “will be a huge boost to Hammond’s ongoing revitalization efforts and will provide employment opportunities for residents, 51.7 percent of which have low to moderate income.”

The estimated $12 million facility will be a community center containing various rooms that may be used for everything from art to yoga classes, Taillon said. Monday’s announcement refers to the center as an 85,000-square-foot wellness center, but Taillon said the actual facility is expected to be even larger.

Taillon has said earlier the complex could include two indoor soccer fields, six basketball/volleyball courts and other activities. He said Tuesday he also expected the center to include an indoor walking path and noted that residents used to get such exercise by walking around the former mall.

A portion of future community development block grant money the city receives between now and 2035 will be used to repay the federal loan. Other community development block grant money and Hammond Central Allocation Area revenue is expected to cover the remaining cost of the structure.

The Hammond Redevelopment Commission in June agreed to purchase the 16-acre Woodmar Mall property for $2.07 million. The commission last month also approved spending $25,000 for a financial feasibility study for the proposed community center. The study is looking at the type of attendance and income different events and tournaments could produce.