For ten years, Mayor Jon Costas has been set on transforming the City of Valparaiso into a vibrant community to live, visit, and to build a business. During that time, Valpo has changed drastically. “We feel that Valparaiso is a city with a vibe and all our projects are focused on creating a city where all people can live vibrantly. Today it is hard to imagine Valpo without a vibrant downtown, the Vale Park Way, a transformed Eastgate area, roundabouts, the Valparaiso Street Project, miles of pathways, a new YMCA, smooth roads, and the V-line and Chicago Dash. Ten years ago Valpo did not have a new police station and a CALEA accredited police force, a third fire station and a stellar ambulance service. A decade ago we didn’t enjoy the new overpass on Rt. 49, a transformed Calumet Avenue, a bold 10-year storm water program, rental registration and a rainy day fund approaching $4 million. Ten years ago a dull parking lot stood where Central Park plaza now shines,” says Costas.
Planners in the city of Valparaiso are intent on continually improving the infrastructure to accommodate a quality of life unparalleled in the state. “Next we intend to build a roundabout at the 5 Points intersection which will be beautiful and safe. Some call them a gift from heaven and a few call them spinning wheels of death. But no matter what you call them, roundabouts are here to stay in Valparaiso. In every application they reduce collisions and injury, they move traffic quicker, they save energy and they look a lot nicer than standard intersections. This year we will build the mother of all roundabouts at the 5 Points intersection. While there has been some angst about this, we have engineered it within an inch of its life and are firmly convinced it will be a safe and effective solution to a problematic intersection. And for those who are too timid to jump in, the city will be providing certified car instructors to take you through for the first time. Construction will begin soon,” he says.
Another project to begin soon is the corridor of Rt. 30 along the city’s south side. Costas says, “This is the only Valpo many people ever experience. A few years back, we began searching for funding for an ambitious plan that would transform that stretch of road so that it better reflects the quality and standards of this community. In January of 2012 I announced that the city had forged a partnership to improve this stretch of Rt. 30 with a $22M investment from INDOT. That is the single largest transportation grant in the city’s history. We are very excited about this project. Design work is underway and construction may begin later this year.”
Valparaiso’s downtown is a perfect example of how every downtown in America should be—specialized boutiques and shops, eclectic and superb restaurants, and activities, entertainment, and community gatherings galore. But Costas has his eyes set on developing the downtown in yet another way. He says, “Our next phase in the remaking of our downtown is to encourage the private construction of dense townhome housing around the downtown. A lot of young people and empty nesters want to live where the action is, and we feel this will make an even more vibrant downtown. More housing options in our downtown will drive commerce, sustainability and activity. We are also focusing on starting the completion of the Central Park Plaza next year. Orville took his rightful place on his park bench throne thanks to generous private donors who contributed all of the funds to immortalize the popcorn king in his hometown. With funding from our Redevelopment Commission, we paved the way for the completion of Central Park by purchasing the half city block across Lafayette Street and razing the empty building. We are finalizing our plans for that expansion. The plans will include a large open-air pavilion for hosting events, a winter skating rink under roof, along with many other amenities designed to enhance our beloved park, which will make it useful year round and in inclement weather. Our goal is to start the construction next year. The excitement continues to mount about this project and we are already seeking input and donors to bring it to reality. We are proud to have over 100 events and activities in our downtown so there is something almost every day. We continue to add new restaurants and specialty shops into the downtown as well our own fabulous microbrewery Figure Eight. We are expanding the Porter County museum into our old police station building, along with exploring other art-related uses. One thing is sure, our commitment to the future of our downtown is unwavering. It is the coolest place in Northwest Indiana and one of the fittest city centers in the Midwest.”
Bringing new businesses into the town is also a focus for the mayor and his staff. “We are more excited than ever about the growth opportunities coming our way. We are seeing an economic turnaround and we think a lot of our businesses will expand in Valparaiso. The end goal of economic development is clear; more quality jobs for our residents. We aim to build a community of distinction which attracts a talented workforce, as well as provide the necessary infrastructure, incentives and procedures that make it easy for businesses to expand and relocate to Valparaiso,” says Costas.