Join a committee, change a community


Zachary Araki/The Lion’s Roar

Amanda Fekete sells produce for the Joe Fekete Family Farm at Downtown Development District’s weekly farmers market. The farmers market committee handles music and activities for the event every Saturday.

Through six committees, the Hammond Downtown Development District provides an opportunity for anyone to participate in decisions concerning their community.

The DDD includes the design committee, merchant committee, farmers market committee, revolving loan committee, events committee and residential committee. The merchant and farmers market committees began in 2018, and the events and residential committees were launched this year.

“The way the DDD works is all ideas and projects come from our committees,” said Chelsea Tallo, executive director of the DDD. “They pick the projects, do the research, make the plan and then present it to the board for approval and funding. So really, these committees contribute to most of the DDD success.”

Each committee serves its community. The design committee oversees construction in the district outside of the Hammond Historic District’s jurisdiction, pavilion projects, completion of Hanson Crossing, landscape improvements and addition of parkings lots or sidewalks.

The merchant committee handles plans to alleviate traffic from food and beverage delivery trucks through the creation of delivery stops. It also surveys business owners on the possibility of changing the downtown food trucks ordinance and makes recommendations for changes to the barbecue challenge.

The farmers market committee contributes to the music and activities at the farmers market that is held every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on West Thomas Street. It also reversed an ordinance and allowed the sale of farm animals at the market.

The revolving loan committee reviews and approves applications for the DDD’s low interest loan up to $75,000 for business and property owners.

The events committee will make decisions on all DDD events and approve details such as payout, funding, posters and entertainment for those events.

The residential committee is composed of local home and apartment renters and owners advocating for residents.

Pierre Theriot, board chairman of DDD, joined the design committee around 2000 and became a board member in 2012. As a member of Holly and Smith Architects, Theriot joined DDD through the firm and its owners Michael Holly and Jeffrey Smith.

“Historically, our firm has been very involved in the revitalization of downtown,” shared Theriot. “Both Michael and Jeffrey have also been on the Downtown Development Board. Jeffrey actually formed the design committee in the same year that I joined it, pretty much straight out of school, and he brought me on, and I’ve been on it ever since. It’s an architect thing. As you can see, downtown is very nice now. It hasn’t always been that way, and it’s taken a lot of effort.”

All committee meetings are open to the public, and dates and times are posted on the DDD website.

“If someone wants to sit in a committee seat, they should contact the DDD,” stated Tallo. “There are guidelines for each committee, but we’ll make sure everyone that wants to be involved in downtown has some sort of opportunity to do so.”

Tallo encouraged people to join a committee to become involved in their community.

“Downtown is the heart of the city, so naturally people have a ton of great ideas on how to make it better or things they want to see changed,” said Tallo. “Instead of wishing for change, make it happen. If you want to actively make a difference in your community, there is no better way than to get involved. These committees also get to see tax dollars at work. They decided what projects the DDD spends their money on.”

The DDD is recruiting for the residential and events committees. In January, the DDD evaluates committee members and asks who wishes to continue serving before their terms end at the end of February and the next one begins on March 1.

“Our committee members are the backbone of the DDD and really get to decide the direction of the DDD,” explained Tallo. “I encourage anyone who wants to be involved, wants to add something impressive to their resume or wants to make a difference to join a DDD committee. It’s a small one to two hour a month commitment that makes a big difference.”