A mix of over 100
residents, business owners and public officials attended Thursday’s
presentation on the progress the Burns Harbor Redevelopment Commission has
made with master development and revitalization advisor LiveWorkLearnPlay (LWLP)
for a long-term plan to help the town’s economy flourish.
“I’ve been told
that this is the biggest gathering of people who care about Burns Harbor in
the history of the town,” said Max Reim, co-manager and principal of LWLP,
which is based in Montreal.
Reim said the
question to be answered is “Can Burns Harbor be an iconic small town,
maintain its charm and have a bright future?” The answer is yes, Reim said,
but it will depend on the “care quotient” of those who want to see it
first phase of a revitalization study and implementation process, Reim said
the research his firm did shows there is a tremendous amount of “economic
leakage,” or revenues that are not being captured, because the right
initiatives are not in place.
Burns Harbor is 45
minutes away from Chicago -- the 17th strongest economy in the world -- and
is just a stone’s throw away from the Indiana Dunes which receives 3 million
visitors each year, Reim said. It also has ArcelorMittal, the world’s
largest steel producer, and is the hub for major highways, ports and trains.
“There are towns
that are starving for what you have. You have all the infrastructure you
need to be a great town of business,” said Reim.
But what may be the
town’s greatest untapped resource is its nature and rich biodiversity.
Birdwatching is an activity that rakes in thousands of dollars for local
economies every year.
Reim said his team
was “blown away” by the trails in the town that only a scarce number of
residents know about.
LWLP Director of
Planning and Development Kiran Marok shared recommendations on what types of
development could thrive in Burns Harbor. Ranked high on the list was
specialty retail, health and wellness, industrial, education and
Small town with
To maximize the
town’s potential, LWLP proposes to create districts, each focusing on a
certain niche. The central one would be a “Main Street U.S.A.” with
community activities and small shops and restaurants.
-- A Lake Village
district would give residents and visitors a chance for outdoor recreation
and the beach.
-- A Civil District
would be where residents can get information. This is where public services,
government and celebrations would be.
-- An Art and
Agriculture District, to provide areas where residents can grow organic food
for nourishment or sales.
-- An Eco District
with the potential for an arboretum and a planetarium.
--- The Living
Room, residential areas that can have small grocery stores or medical
offices, and pharmacies.
Recreation and Trails District, for residents to observe and enjoy nature.
-- The 149, turning
the main drag of Ind. 149 from a common highway to a boulevard clustered
with economic activity.
-- Scenes of
Arrivals, areas of the highways that would have wayfinding signage, banners,
public art, plant art and lighting.
Analyst Jill Merriman urged that Burns Harbor fill its calendar with events
year-round events, like festivals and farmers markets. Reim added that the
dunes could also expand things to do in town, even in the winter.
“You need to be
known as a town with a hundred things to do, and everyone needs to know what
those things are to do,” Reim said. “You need to create that art and culture
atmosphere. A place of life-long learning opportunities.”
In order to bring
the plan to reality, the town would logically need business plans, funding
and leadership, Reim said. The process can move quickly, as early as this
fall, but it would take collaboration from all the stakeholders.
Reim advised that
the way to success will be in little steps over time. Think of it as
baseball legend Rod Carew who never made many home runs but achieved success
with hundreds of single hits up the middle, he said.
“You have to remain
fresh, relevant, exciting and competitive. You have to have a learning curve
if you want to be a town of the 21st century,” Reim said.
After the meeting,
RDC President Greg Miller told the Chesterton Tribune the overall
objective in this stage of the revitalization process is to find out if the
town does in fact have what it takes to implement these strategies. From
what the data suggests, it looks positive.
“There are lot of
pieces to this puzzle but I think it’s clear that we have them all. We just
have to put them together,” Miller said, adding that people should realize
that the enhancements discussed won’t happen overnight.
transformed towns and cities big and small, Miller said, to become thriving
Among those in the
audience were U.S. Representative Pete Visclosky’s Chief of Staff Mark
Lopez, Duneland Schools Superintendent David Pruis, Northwest Indiana Forum
President and CEO Heather Ennis, Chesterton Town Manager Bernie Doyle,
Porter Town Councilwoman Jeannine Virtue, Porter County Tourism Bureau
Executive Director Lorelei Weimer and representatives from the Indiana Dunes
were invited to talk one on one with the presenters and ask questions after
Thursday’s presentation slides will be available for the public to view on
the town’s website. He said LWLP will hold more meetings and presentations
as the work goes on, even years into the future.