Chesterton Tribune



Guest Commentary: State Park Pavilion belongs to public

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Guest Commentary

By Norman Hellmers

As you are reading this, Valpo developer Chuck Williams and his Pavilion Partners continue to make plans to modify the Pavilion at Dunes State Park. A project that has been masked in secrecy is slowly but surely coming into the light of public scrutiny.

At a 2012 meeting of the Indiana Natural Resources Commission, State Parks Director Dan Bortner said about the Pavilion: “We want this brought back to its original design.” Since then, Pavilion Partners and the DNR have made plans to change the Pavilion in ways that would appall the original designers and now outrage the public.

When the public first learned that the intent was to bring the Pavilion “back to what it was,” people were delighted. Since then, the planned changes and the proposed addition of a “banquet facility” (actually intended primarily as a wedding chapel and reception hall) have soured many people on the entire project.

Pavilion Partners is planning major changes to the exterior of the Pavilion. These include a large new structure on the rooftop (nearly 2,000 square feet) housing a bar, kitchen, elevator lobby, and restrooms. This “rooftop terrace” would have outdoor fireplaces and a movable wall system made of glass. An elevator shaft that protrudes through the roof is already visible. Two large (approximately 45 x 15 foot) balconies will be added to the north (beach) side at the second floor level along with two new ground level dining “terraces” under the balconies. None of this was part of the original design.

Just as important as the building itself is its surrounding landscape. The plazas to either side of the Pavilion and the low retaining wall were all integral parts of the original design. The western plaza has already been partially destroyed during construction of the “Comfort Center.” The original intent of the eastern plaza, dismissed by Pavilion Partners and the DNR as “disturbed ground,” will be lost if a new building is constructed there, as will a view of the entire eastern faŤade of the Pavilion.

Uses of the interior of the Pavilion remain a moving target as the developers continue to roll out new ideas. These now include: “galleries” that could be used for wedding rehearsal dinners, a craft brew pub, a yoga/dance studio, exercise area, a photography studio, and an art studio.

Plans for all of this construction have not yet been made public. All we have are their words, which seem to change daily like the winds off Lake Michigan. The lack of public plans is especially disconcerting since Pavilion Partners has spoken of resuming construction next month.

With or without plans, it appears that the Pavilion will not be brought back to anything close to its “original design.”

It’s past time that we learned what is really planned. Copies of the plans have been requested from the DNR, the property manager, and the architect -- none have been responsive.

It’s our Dunes State Park and our Pavilion. We deserve to know what’s going on.




Posted 8/27/2015




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