Michigan City’s downtown core, also known as the Uptown Arts District today, has evolved much over the years. Many different factors have controlled its evolution, so we would like to focus, primarily, on the ways in which our organization, the Michigan City Mainstreet Association, has acted to change the course of history for Michigan City. Below, you will find a timeline of events that highlight important events in the downtown as well as explain our organization’s involvement in the community over the years. We look forward to contributing more for years to come.
1969 – Franklin Square, a city park and pedestrian shopping area covering the 500-900 blocks of Franklin Street, is completed. It is dedicated on November 22, 1969.
1970 – Two days of riots/civil disturbances occur in the city’s North End following the Summer Festival Parade. The disturbances were sparked by an incident in which three black men were arrested and subdued with mace by police in front of a local tavern, in what began as a parking violation. For the next two days, windows were broken, firebombs and rocks were thrown, stores were looted, and sporadic shots were fired. Fourteen-year-old Emmett Wright was shot in the left leg, and eight other people were injured. The Star Laundry was destroyed in a fire, and Henry Lumber and Kaeding Boats were damaged by fire. A state of emergency was declared and a force of 150 police and 150 National Guardsmen patrolled the city (July 11-12, 1970).
1972 – The Tivoli Theater closes (November 30).
1973 – The Pullman-Standard property, in use by manufacturing companies Bobco Inc. and Poloron, burns down in a major fire that spreads to other North End properties on July 18. Fire departments from other towns are called into battle the fire, which encompassed eight square blocks. The cleanup was not completed for five years.
1975 – First-Merchants National Bank, 515 Franklin Square, is constructed. First-Merchants was formed from a merger of First National Bank and Merchants National Bank in 1962. The bank later merged with Citizen’s Bank to become First Citizens Bank. It was renamed Horizon Bank in 1997.
1977 – The Michigan City Public Library moves to a new facility designed by Helmut Jahn. It is dedicated on October 30, 1977. The old library building is later sold to John Blank to be used as a community art center which would become the Lubeznik Center for the Arts.
1979 – The city’s first City Hall is opened downtown.
1979 – The Spaulding Hotel, Sears building, and Lido Theater are demolished.
Late 70s – New police station is constructed downtown.
1980s – Laser light shows are held at the NIPSCO plant, projecting images on the cooling tower.
1982 – Three businesses at 11th & Franklin are destroyed in a fire (February 2-3).
1987 – Lighthouse Place Outlet Shopping Center opens at the former Pullman Factory which was earlier destroy in a large fire.
1990 – Four buildings at 7th & Franklin are destroyed in a fire, with losses of over $1 million (January 28).
1990 – Crowds take to the streets and march to City Hall calling for racial change in the city. Rocks and bottles are thrown in a near-riot (June 3).
1990 – Franklin Square, which was only accessible to foot traffic, is demolished. Franklin Street reopens to traffic in the uptown area (August 10).
1990 – The Michigan City Downtown Boosters are formed. They later become the Michigan City Mainstreet Association.
1995 – Harborside Homes (colloquially named “The Patch“) is demolished.
1996 – On July 24, 1996, the Michigan City Downtown Boosters filed with the IRS to become the 501(c)(4) non-profit organization Michigan City Mainstreet Association, Inc (MCMA).
1997 – Arnold Besse purchased 726 Franklin and started the Southern Shore Arts Association with hopes of creating an artist coop downtown. Soon after, the Art Center moved into this building as well and started pumping art-fueled energy into the downtown.
2003 – The Art Center moves from the Old Library in Elston Grove to its current location on 2nd Street and is renamed the Lubeznik Center for the Arts.
2009 – The first Great Lakes Grand Prix is held. An estimated 80,000 spectators watch the professional boat race. The race is held annually hence forth.
2010 – The Uptown Arts District is formed. A group/organization of artists and craftspeople including Sam Hook, Jessica Demaasa, Chris Grohs and others, headed at the time by Barbara Balis, developed the new UAD logo and brand for the downtown. This group then merged with the Michigan City Mainstreet Association, headed at the time by Hesham Khalil, to form a new Uptown Arts District Committee which was headed by Chris Grohs. MCMA has since promoted and been the steward of the Uptown Arts District brand.
2010 – Michigan City is ranked #1 in the Culture and Leisure category in Forbes “Best Small Places for Business and Careers.”
2010 – The first Taste of Michigan City event is held on Washington & 7th Streets. It includes food vendors from the area and a parade of Great Lakes Grand Prix boats.
2010 – The First Friday Art Walk was started by the small UAD group in July of 2010 when Walnut Ink, Lakeside West and Southern Shore Art Association galleries had concurrent openings and saw the benefits of organizing an art happening where all galleries had openings at the same time. It grew fast and then became an event handled by MCMA with a broader focus on merchants and other businesses.
2011 – Charles C. Westcott Park (Gateway Park) opens at the site of the former Harborside Homes.
2014 – Decorative lights are installed on trees on Franklin Street in the UAD.
2014 – New decorative street furniture and other street hardware is installed throughout the UAD.
2015 – Michigan City adopts a new slogan: “Create. Play. Repeat.”
2015 – In February, MCMA hosts the first ever Shelf Ice Brewfest which brings hundreds of people downtown to sample beer from over 25 local and regional breweries.
2015 – AgriSculpture represents this community’s dedication to the arts. Three sculptures were commissioned by the RDC to be constructed out of old farm equipment. The sculptures were unveiled during the Saturday Farmers Market.
2016 – The ArtSpace Uptown Artist Lofts opens in the spring and is full by April. The Michigan City Redevelopment Commission donated the Warren Building to ArtSpace in 2013. A $13 million renovation/historic preservation project is completed by ArtSpace to turn the building into artist lofts.
2016 – On June 14, Washington, Pine, and 9th streets were converted from being one-way streets to two-way streets.
2016 – In July, the Wabash Street Green Infrastructure Improvements project is completed and added new pedestrian amenities, sculptures, and rain gardens to the streetscape in front of the Lighthouse Premium Outlet Mall.
2017 – Former News Dispatch and Michigan City Police Station buildings are torn down to make way for development.
2017 – In October at MCMA’s annual Flame & Flare Halloween Festival, The Kount drove his rocket and flame-throwing batmobile down Franklin Street.
2017 – In March, the City of Michigan City demolishes the 701-705 Franklin Street building to make way for a future downtown Civic Plaza.
2017 – In August, MCMA hosts the 8th Annual Taste of Michigan City on the former 701-705 Franklin Street building lot for the first time ever
2018 – In June, MCMA hosts its first ever Swale Music Festival in Wescott Park bringing dozens of bands and hundreds of people to the UAD.
2018 – In Summer, a developer broke ground on a new mixed-use development at the former location of the Memorial Hospital lot on Pine Street between 5th and 6th Streets. This new development promises many new residential units and commercial offerings to the UAD.