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Monday, 29 June 2020 19:39

Body Shop Eyes Merrillville, IN, Site

Merrillville Town Hall. Merrillville Town Hall. John J. Watkins, file, The Times


A new auto body repair shop would represent a significant investment in the town and bring a modern operation to Merrillville, IN, but some property owners think it should be in a different location.

John Melendez is seeking a special exception from the town to open a $2.5 million facility at a commercially zoned property near Merrillville Road and 84th Drive.


Melendez told the Board of Zoning Appeals recently he would use the latest technology at the body shop, and it would produce low noise, no dust and no noxious odors.


Melendez currently operates a body shop in Thornton, IL, but he needs to expand to meet demand.


Melendez, from Northwest Indiana, said he is already receiving business from the area, and he wants to bring his operation to the region.


Michael Jasaitis, an attorney representing Melendez, said Melendez is a master certified auto body technician, and he has the only area business that's GM-certified for auto body repair.


All body work will be done indoors, and damaged cars will be kept inside a fenced area and away from public view. Melendez said he is focused on being environmentally friendly, and he uses water-based paints.


“We're different,” Melendez said. “We're very unique.”


In addition to the auto body repair services, Melendez said he would give back to the community.


That includes offering free training opportunities so first responders can gain extrication experience on advanced technology vehicles.

Melendez also is willing to work with local schools to provide job shadowing at his business.

The proposed building would be about 14,500 square feet. Jasaitis said it will be an aesthetically pleasing structure, and he believes it will enhance property values in the area.


“It will provide curbside appeal,” he said.


The BZA decided to give Melendez's special exception request a favorable recommendation.


“This is a state-of-the-art business that could really put the town of Merrillville on the map,” BZA member Chuck Stojakovich said.

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