Chesterton Tribune

Indiana Dunes State park pavilion eyed as restaurant and meeting venue

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Tourism officials have revealed that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has set forth a plan to revitalize the historic Indiana Dunes State Park Pavilion as a year-round restaurant and meeting venue.

Indiana Dunes Tourism Executive Director Lorelei Weimer at Thursday’s county tourism commission meeting said the DNR has created a prospectus for an adaptive reuse project and is seeking a private/public agreement with an interested vendor.

Proposals are currently being accepted by the agency and terms of the agreement are wide-open to help determine the best use of the building and achieve profitability throughout the year. The chosen vendor would maintain a lease agreement with the state and be responsible for remodeling the building. The deadline for the proposals is March 1.

Weimer said the county’s tourism bureau is not directly involved with the process as the state entirely owns the structure but supports the effort, believing the new site could boost visitor numbers.

The bureau has for years supported the state developing a private/public partnership, recognizing the value of the pavilion. Weimer said a restaurant and banquet space would be a perfect use for the building as it would be the only place in Porter County where residents and visitors could dine on Lake Michigan. Other potential uses include the pavilion being rented out for weddings.

“We think this is a golden opportunity,” she said. “I think a lot of us are excited to see this movement finally take place.”

Weimer believes that the restaurant would be able to sustain business in the wintertime as patrons will be offered a unique view of the lake as it begins to form ice. Visitors however will still need to pay an admission fee to get into the park.

Indiana Dunes Tourism board member Dr. John Johnson questioned if the restaurant would be able to operate year-round since statistics show the majority of new restaurants flop and suggested it would be a wise idea to include in the Request for Proposal to ask vendors how they plan to create economic development with the facility.

Weimer said the RFP is developed in such a way that it will allow potential vendors to be creative in how they will operate under the agreement. She said the chosen vendor will probably be someone who is well-experienced in the dining industry. The tourism bureau has made efforts to help find the best-choice vender by contacting restaurant owners, developers, Purdue University Calumet and the Indiana and Illinois Restaurant Associations.

The statement of purpose within the prospectus requires that great consideration of the final development be given in this project and “shall be sympathetic to the history of the building, the park, and the IDNR.”

Prospective leasees will need to demonstrate the ability to carry out the project under the DNR’s guidelines in their proposal. An evaluation committee of the DNR will ask top candidates to give a presentation.

Businesses interested in learning more about the pavilion reuse project are encouraged to contact the Indiana DNR for more information.

 

 

Posted 12/16/2011