VALPARAISO — A new outdoor space next to the Valparaiso branch of the Porter County Public Library system is in the works.
The board wants to tear down the old Chase Bank on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Jefferson Road for what it's calling an “outdoor literary learning plaza” for public events and outdoor reading.
A small fence and plants native to Indiana would surround the main space. Inside, there would be unique play areas for children, tables for local book clubs, children's story time spaces and a stage.
“I can say with our current meeting area, we have to turn people away from our programming because it gets filled up," said Jesse Butz, director of Porter County Libraries. "That is something we think this plaza can help with and allow more families and community members to participate."
There would also be a small gate on the side for food trucks, including free and reduced-price lunches for children.
Butz said he wants the area to not just be a boon for the library, but the rest of Valparaiso.
“This is going to offer a great community space for us as well as community partners,” Butz said. “So, for example, if local schools want to come down to the library we could conduct a giant story time for them.”
To fund the project, the library is seeking a public grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. The board originally wanted to apply a month ago, but found out if it expanded its proposal, it could get even more money to help cover the costs of both the demolition of the bank and the park construction.
The library will seek donations after the grant money is received and then determine the final design of the park and the construction timeline.
“Our project is scalable. If we can't afford a certain structure, the project can go forward without that structure,” Butz said. “If we get additional funds great, we can enhance it, but if we can't afford it we won't do it.”
Butz said he is confident in the likelihood of getting grant money due to the condition of the old bank property, which is considered blighted.