VALPARAISO | The past decade brought a lot of changes to the city's landscape, but city officials want to know what residents want for the city for the next decade or decades.
In his state of the city speech last week, Mayor Jon Costas said, "Our city looks different, feels different and for many reasons we take great pride in calling Valparaiso home. But the question we should be asking ourselves at this juncture is 'What's next?'
"Where do we go from here? How do we envision Valparaiso 10, 20 or even 50 years from now?" Costas said. "We want to help our citizens answer the question of 'What's next for Valpo' with Valpo Next. Valpo Next is one of the most comprehensive, long-term visioning efforts a city of our size has ever undertaken."
The highlight of the year-long study, being conducted with the help of ACP Planning and Visioning of Columbus, Ohio, will be a series of three "Big idea" workshops scheduled to take place Feb 24, 25 and 26 at three locations around the city to collect as much public input as can be offered.
The first will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 24 at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, 1600 Roosevelt Road. That will be followed by one from noon to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Grace Chapel, 157 Lafayette Street, and the final one from 7 to 9 p.m. Feb. 26 at Valparaiso High School, 2727 N. Campbell St.
Everyone is welcome to one or all of the sessions to share ideas about the city's future because "We believe thousands of heads are better than one," Costas said. The ideas gathered will be refined by ACP and the 40-plus-member committee formed to guide the process over the next few months. The final report will be presented in late summer of early fall.
"Good planning has led to our success over the past five to eight years, and it's also helped us gain more than $85 million in state and federal grants to help transform the city," Costas said. "The Valpo Next visioning project is an opportunity for the community to work together to define what's next."
The consultant also is meeting with smaller groups representing the gamut of stakeholders in the community, of all ages and all walks of life. The study will provide the blueprint for future administrations and replaces the past strategic plans, which were drawn up by Costas and his department heads.
"This is a citizen led effort designed to give every resident a voice about our future," he said. "This citywide effort will help unify us around the ideas, aspirations and values that define us."
In addition to participating at any of the public sessions, Costas urged residents to provide input online at www.valponext.org.