Economic development in Porter County is expanding at a rapid rate. Portage, Chesterton and Valparaiso have all placed an emphasis on smart planning that delivers exactly what the current and potential residents want in their city or town.
Valparaiso—Vibrant and Visionary
Valparaiso’s slogan is a philosophy that continues to be implemented throughout the community.
“My family has been small business owners in this town over 40 years,” says Mayor Jon Costas. “That helps me have a feel for what our residents want from their town and their downtown.”
During the past 12 years, the Valparaiso downtown has experienced a renaissance centered on the creation of the Central Park Plaza. The city garnered national attention when the American Planning Association recognized the plaza as a Great Public Space in 2016.
“We want to create and retain the sense of inclusion and ownership that comes with a public square,” Costas explains. “Our initial designs focused on that aspect. It’s been a major success, and our residents provide positive feedback about the renovations to downtown.”
Small businesses have flocked to Valparaiso and filled the streets that surround the public square. A stroll down the corridors reveals a mixture of restaurants with outdoor cafés, retail shops, boutiques, candy makers, a brewery, and the Valpo Velvet ice cream shop.
Stability has been key to Valparaiso’s downtown success. Whenever there is an opening in a building, new businesses fill it quickly. Most of the shop owners are local people, which contributes to the overall smooth continuance.
The bottom line is how residents and visiting consumers are attracted to what Valpo has to offer.
“Visitors and residents vote with their dollars,” Costas says. “Not just a political vote, but a consumer one. If they didn’t like the direction the downtown has taken, businesses would be going under. The exact opposite is true.”
The mayor credits the town’s welcoming, inclusive attitude as a major reason for their commercial success.
“Valparaiso University is a diverse school,” Costas says. “It provides us with a constant opportunity to practice what we preach. So far, so good.”
Chesterton has made technology, medical facilities, and planned residential growth a focal point they define as “smart growth.”
“Our emphasis is on a combination of all three,” explains town manager Bernie Doyle. “The Symphony of Chesterton is a state-of-the-art advanced care and independent living facility. We will see groundbreaking of two new independent living complexes: StoryPoint and Residences of Coffee Creek.”
In addition, Franciscan Health has expanded its stand-alone Emergency Department to include open MRI and an urgent care wing. EasyDial, a portable dialysis device manufacturer out of Europe, will break ground in late 2017 or early 2018.
The technology corridor, four years in the making, has seen significant accomplishments, and Doyle says the design phase is complete.
“That took considerable time, working on easements and rights of way, ensuring all commercial customers and the Duneland School Corporation were included,” he explains.
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The second phase, defined as operator agreement, is under negotiation with the respondent. New fiber should be installed soon after the agreements are in place.
The town is working with Valparaiso regarding a fiber optic corridor down Highway 49. Doyle sees it as a regional project designed to benefit both communities.
“Our relationship with Valpo has been positive over the years,” he says. “We are two different communities sharing a common goal of expanding on the quality of place of our respective municipalities.”
Residential growth has expanded at a brisk pace.
“There is considerable residential development going on throughout Chesterton, the likes of which have not been seen here since the great recession,” Doyle says.
The town’s responsiveness and smart planning allowed them to take advantage of the growth spurt.
“We worked with developers to allow everyone interested in our community to have multiple options for homes and neighborhoods that fit their lifestyle,” Doyle says.
Portage—Promenade at Founders Square
Four years in the making, the Promenade at Founders Square in Portage is finally set to begin development.
Drew Mitchell, VP of development for Holladay Properties, is excited to see the $50 million investment become reality.
“It took us quite a while to acquire all of the various properties needed,” Mitchell explains. “While we assembled the land, we worked with the City Council and various boards to finalize a plan that will provide the city exactly what they envision.”
That vision includes 200 upscale apartments designed to attract millennials and empty nesters. The first phase will include five buildings north of Main Street, south of the Indiana Toll Road, east of the Little League fields and west of Hamstrom Road. The company purchased approximately 20 acres from the city’s Redevelopment Commission for the project.
Commercial development will include restaurants, retail, boutiques, offices, medical facilities and assorted amenities on the first floor of the five buildings, according to Mitchell.
“The upper floors will have upscale apartments for those who desire the city life,” he continues. “These residences will include granite counters, open concepts, and many exquisite touches usually seen in much larger cities.”
These first five buildings will also include amenities such as a cyber café, a community room, a club, an art studio, and a facility for elder residents who may need assistance.
“It’s important to include the types of amenities that attract people to want to live here,” Mitchell says. “We have conducted extensive research and feel we have made some excellent choices in that regard.”
Expanding and developing the area around Founders Square has been a high priority for the city, as they work on different ways to attract various age groups to Portage.