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HAMMOND — Robertsdale residents gathered around the three residential development proposals on display at the front of the packed room Wednesday evening. Each rendering depicted a different future for the former George Rogers Clark Middle/High School athletic field.

“I have been waiting to develop this with single-family homes for a decade,” Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. told attendees.

McDermott decided to host a community meeting before finalizing any plans because he “wanted to get this right.”

“We have not poured one bag of concrete yet. This is all still very theoretical,” McDermott said. 

Clark High School was closed at the start of the 2021-22 school year. In May 2021 the Hammond school board approved a land swap with the city, receiving park land behind the Hammond Civic Center in exchange for the Clark Athletic Field, which sits right next to George Lake. 

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Clark Field community meeting

City Engineer Dean Button, right, and Mayor Thomas McDermott, left, present the three development options proposed for the Clark Athletic Field. 




Ultimately, the city would also like to develop the land where the vacant school building sits. However, under current Indiana law, unused school properties must first be offered to charter schools for $1. The School City of Hammond is involved in a lawsuit challenging the law. But until the lawsuit is finalized, the city has nothing planned for the area encompassing the school building. 

“It is going to be developed, just not right now,” McDermott said. 

Giving residents options

In the fall, Hammond allocated $3 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding to install infrastructure at Clark Field. City Engineer Dean Button said the money will go toward water mains, sewage systems, roadways and more.

The city worked with Abonmarche Consultants to develop three possible plans for the field.

The first option consisted of 30 single-family home lots and 1.1 acres of green space. The second option was a mix of residential units with 26 single-family lots, 14 townhomes and just under one acre of green space. The final option had 24 single-family homes and 12 cluster homes, which are closely-grouped structures built on smaller lots, and 1.33 acres of green space. 

After presenting the options and fielding questions, McDermott surveyed the room. When asked who preferred option one, most of the crowd’s hands’ shot up. McDermott said the city’s next step would be to “flesh out” option one before hosting another community meeting. 

Though the crowd was largely in agreement, some audience members had concerns. 







Clark Field community meeting

City officials presented three different options for the housing development proposed for Clark Athletic Field. 




“There should be an option four that says we are going to make this a park,” long-term Robertsdale resident Dave Matura said. “I just can’t figure out why you would take this green space and develop it. I just don’t understand it, it’s between two parks.”

Bikers, walkers, birders and runners all frequent the George Lake pedestrian path. Matura fears a housing development will disturb the peaceful wetland area. 

“If we have to have houses, there should be more green space,” Matura said, adding that he would like to see a natural buffer run between the homes and the trail, with plenty of trees to block the housing. 

Expanding single-family housing

“The need for new residential housing is the single biggest housing issue we hear about,” McDermott said. 

The city frequently hears from residents who want to stay in Hammond but are forced to move because they cannot find housing big enough for their growing families, Chief of Staff Phil Taillon said. 

“Because this property was previously owned by the School City of Hammond, it was not producing any tax dollars on behalf of the city. … If these homes are built, taxes will be paid for each of these homes, and it lessens some of the burden on all of us,” Taillon said. “When you are attracting new businesses and companies to the city, one thing they always look at is, ‘what new housing stock do you have for us to attract the employees that we are looking for?’”

Nathan Reeder, a third-generation Hammond realtor, said he would like to see a project that would promote long-term growth in the city. Affordable apartments and other multifamily housing options could bring more young residents to the Hammond, Reeder said. 







Clark Athletic Field meeting

A crowd of residents filled the Clipper Room at the Hammond Marina for the Wednesday night meeting. 




“This will house 30 people, but we could be housing 1,000 people,” Reeder said. 

However, the majority of the crowd agreed — the city should move forward with the 30 single-family units presented in option one.

“This is going to be the largest new subdivision in Hammond in decades, it will strengthen the tax base and bring in new families,” McDermott said. 

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