NIRPC planning grant program encouraging livable town centers

2013-10-03T18:00:00Z 2013-10-03T23:40:06Z NIRPC planning grant program encouraging livable town centersLauri Harvey Keagle lauri.keagle@nwi.com, (219) 852-4311 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | Region planners are hoping grant funds will encourage municipalities to work toward making their city centers the true cores of their communities.

Eman Ibrahim, planning manager for Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, said Thursday the commission plans to launch the Creating Livable Centers program in November. The issue is up for approval before the full NIRPC board Oct. 17.

"We've seen a 125 percent increase in development in unincorporated areas," Ibrahim told the NIRPC Environmental Management Policy Committee Thursday. "We want to limit that and get people back into the downtown centers."

If adopted by the full NIRPC board, $400,000 in transportation funds would be available to qualifying communities in Lake and Porter counties. Grant applications are expected to become available around Nov. 1 if the measure is approved, Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim said livable centers involve multi-use zoning in a compact area that allows people access to a variety of activities and services without having to use vehicles.

"One of the elements of a livable center is good connectivity," Ibrahim said. "We want to make it easy for people to bike or walk."

Ibrahim pointed to Valparaiso, Crown Point, Whiting, Michigan City and LaPorte as good examples of communities with livable centers.

Porter County Surveyor Kevin Breitzke, who serves as chairman of the NIRPC Environmental Management Policy Committee, touted the plan.

"Really what we're trying to do is make these areas more accessible," Breitzke said. "I think it's going to be pursued by many of the communities."

Dr. Deb Backhus, senior environmental scientist for South Shore Clean Cities, said she hopes residents support and get involved the projects.

"That's the key to making these things happen, getting the citizens behind it," Backhus said. 

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