PORTER | Built in 1930 as a place for visitors to rinse the sand from their sun-drenched skin, the Indiana Dunes State Park Pavilion also offered a place to dine.
But over the years, the white-tablecloth restaurant faded away, replaced first by a concession stand and then empty space.
Now Indiana Department of Natural Resources officials are hoping to resurrect the former glory of the building and attract visitors. The DNR is seeking proposals by March 1 to “redevelop, operate and maintain the Indiana Dunes Pavilion and other appropriate facilities that would be compatible and enhance the operation,” according to the prospectus.
“The pavilion is an integral part of the Indiana Dunes State Park, and is in need of rehab and repair. Since the DNR does not have the funding to undertake this type of project, the DNR is seeking a public/private partnership to accomplish this goal," the prospectus states. "This building has been remodeled over time, and the DNR is interested in offering the re-development of this structure within the scope of this offering."
The DNR hopes to enter into a 30-year lease agreement to offer minimum services as a full-service restaurant and banquet service, meeting facilities, merchandise for sale that is appropriate to the park and facility, a snack bar, other services and restroom and shower facilities.
Lorelei Weimer, executive director of the Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitor Commission, said she is thrilled about the potential of the partnership.
“This is really a gem we have at the Indiana Dunes State Park," Weimer said. "If this goes through, it will be the only opportunity in Porter County to sit and have dinner right on Lake Michigan."
The commission is assisting state officials with the search by contacting business owners, developers and restaurant associations in Indiana and Illinois, Weimer said.
“Anyone who puts in a proposal needs to have a very strong background in operations and really understand the business,” she said.
The park's location in a state park will present a few challenges to development, she said. No alcohol will be allowed, and the facility will be open year-round.