VALPARAISO | The Miller Mart will be getting a $360,000 to $400,000 facelift in 2014, and its owners hope Valparaiso will provide a portion of that in the form of a $50,000 facade grant.
Michael Miller presented plans for improvements Tuesday to the city's Plan Commission. The commission endorsed the plan calling for stone on up to half the front facing of the shopping center at the corner of Sturdy Road and Lincolnway. Vertical columns will be added along with landscaping to screen the parking lot and the loading dock area.
Miller said his grandmother bought the property almost 70 years ago, and it is now owned by him and a cousin. He said it was an apple orchard when it was bought before a store was built in the 1950s.
He said the original plan was to only do the front of the building facing Lincolnway, but, after meeting with Mayor Jon Costas and city Planning Director Tyler Kent, he agreed to do more landscaping on Sturdy.
Kent said the location is not within an area eligible for a facade grant, but the administration favors extending the downtown facade grant program to cover the site to aid improvements. The city's Redevelopment Commission had a facade grant programfor businesses in the Eastgate corridor, but that expired.
"It is an anchor for this area and we would really like to see it move forward," Kent said.
Variances will be needed for the signs, but the city is supporting those because of the large frontage and the distance the businesses are set back from the road. The commission's endorsement of the improvements will go to the council, which must also agree to extend the grant program.
The council could act on the request at its Jan. 13 meeting. Miller would be at the city's Board of Zoning Appeals meeting in January for the variances that would clear the way to begin construction in February. He said it would take eight to 10 months to complete the work.
The commission also approved plans for the 14-lot Airport Business and Industrial Park on 38.5 acres between the Eastport Centre Industrial Park and the Porter County Municipal Airport. The site is being developed by Chester Inc. for the city as a shovel ready business park.