An eye to the future: Burns Harbor officials outlining town’s path, transformation

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The vision for Burns Harbor’s future continues to take shape as the town’s leadership team partners with a real estate development and advisory firm.

“We have a town that a lot of people don’t know what the identity is: ‘What is in Burns Harbor? Why would I want to go?’” says Burns Harbor Economic Development Director Joe Rurode. “We have this really strong leadership with the town council and redevelopment commission that recognize the potential to be something unique and vibrant. They have the guts to make things happen and the bravery to put their best foot forward.”

The team put out requests for qualifications last year looking for a firm that can guide the town down the right path while taking the process step by step.

“We had an amazing response with 11 RFQs from firms across the country and world,” Rurode says. “It was a six-month-long process and was very thorough. We wanted to find the firm that was the best fit.”

LiveWorkLearnPlay was named in February as the town’s master development and revitalization advisor. The firm works to create “the heart of communities.” It worked with Saxony Village officials to help cultivate a mix of waterfront, housing, office space, retail, entertainment, health care and education into a regional destination in Hamilton County, Ind.

“Where we are in the process right now is really it’s more of a partnership (with LWLP). The firm will help facilitate the long-term development toward a sustainable economic environment and identity for the town rather than just putting up buildings,” he says. “It’s about the process, not just the goal or end-results in mind … understanding the core vision. The town has character and we want to create a place where people truly want to visit or raise a family … be part of the community and do business.

“It’s not something decided in months … it’s layered and brush strokes on a unique blank canvas … that’s where we are at.” Rurode says the team is spending time on market assessment during the next 10 months.

“It’s about doing the homework and due diligence of what the town can be rather than jumping in, we want to make the most informed decisions on the short-term and longer-term initiatives,” he says. “We have kind of a blank canvas type of opportunity that is about economic development and social and cultural development at the same time. The strongest thing right now is to create something without a lot of barriers.”

He sees the natural resources as an avenue to the town’s future.