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May 24, 2009 12:00 am  •  Rob Earnshaw Times Correspondent

Original: Northwest Indiana Times

Chicago 1st Ward Alderman Manuel “Manny” Flores has a goal to make his city “greener.” What better way for Flores to accomplish his mission than by visiting Northwest Indiana’s The Village in Burns Harbor, recognized as the first national “green” development by the National Home Builders Association.

“It’s beautiful, it’s a wonderful model,” Flores said on arriving at a meeting with The Village community leaders at the home of its developer, T. Clifford Fleming.

“If you were to just come in at first blush, it looks like any other community,” Flores said. “But it’s not any other community when you really start peeling the layers and realize how energy-efficient these structures are, and the collaboration — getting people to understand the use of the building — is important.”

The Village in Burns Harbor is a 60-acre parcel developed from unused farmland and old commercial development in the town of Burns Harbor. Fleming said the benefit of its urban design promotes green that isn’t necessarily “tree-hugging” but more related to health.

“If you have sidewalks you are encouraged to walk,” he said. “You have parks and areas where you can go out and congregate.

“This is a template for other villages. My goal was, let’s enhance the image of all of Northwest Indiana.”

Flores toured the neighborhood development and planned to take what he learned from it and adopt it to the redevelopments and communities in his ward and the rest of Chicago. He is interested in learning about the challenges The Village faced in becoming certified, its educational aspects and continuing a partnership with his ward.

“We have to continue this conversation so as we begin to do more in our city, that we collaborate and vice versa. We may have some things to offer as well.”