Cliff Fleming’s childhood drives his vision for both The Village of Burns Harbor and Northwest Indiana.
When he purchased the property in 1996, he had his Gary neighborhood in the back of his mind as he launched the Porter County Development. Today there are 75 homes, a mix of colors and designs, with a Welcome Center at 337 Bolinger Lane.
“I took all my planners to Gary where I grew up at 7th and Harrison. (At The Village) we have alleys, narrower roads, if you go around our corners you have to go slow. It’s not like in a subdivision where you go 30 mph,” said Fleming, owner of Fleming Entities. “My idea is a social engineering effort. Primarily, can we recreate a sense of community where the neighbors share?”
In April 2009, The Village became the National Association of Home Builders’ first certified green community in the United States. The recognition revolves around the Traditional Neighborhood Design, attention to land, community-based amenities, smaller street and pavement widths and traffic-calming measures.
“For green, it’s a misnomer thinking of trees. Really for green, you think of health, you think of sidewalks, you think of porches, you think of people talking, you think of less pervious concrete or surfaces,” Fleming said, who works with seven employees at The Village. “You look at parks, you look at preserving trees, you look at how you handle the storm water, you look at materials that are on the house, now I got it. That’s a green I understand. Most of what I did to fit the urban profile, then fit the green.”
Fleming has had to work closely with both the private and public sectors and he has found guidance from Northwest Indiana Small Business Development advisor LeAnn McCrum. He said she has been a source of structure and a bridge between the two different sectors.
“I’m trying to bring municipalities together so now I’m in the public sector. Typically, municipalities don’t play well together. I wanted to bring three municipalities together to collaborate, to talk, and I thought we needed a structure,” Fleming said. “I’ve got her providing structure and organization to the public sector, which is rare.”
“At the end of the day, the SBDC is going to end up providing substantial economic growth benefit to Northwest Indiana because of the way it interacts with the private and public sector,” he added.
NWI SBDC Regional Director Joshua Lybolt said being a liaison between government and business is a vital role for the SBDC.
“By helping both sectors work together and collaborate, we will see further growth for the region and a stronger sense of community,” Lybolt said.
Fleming calls himself the “epitome of the growth guy” as he looks forward to the future of The Village and the region. The Village team recently passed a new comprehensive plan with new zoning ordinances and Fleming hopes to take his concept to new places. He is working on The Village at Pope’s Farm at the Tollway and Indiana 49.
“What can I do to enhance the image of Northwest Indiana so my kids and grandkids can stay? The Village was s social engineering project in a community that I thought could develop as a town. We are now in the position to develop as a regular town,” Fleming said. “I want to make Northwest Indiana a better place.”