Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Burns Harbor plans draw a crowd

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An article appearing Friday in the Chesterton Tribune reported that the slide presentation for the Burns Harbor Revitalization Project by LiveWorkLearnPlay will be made available on the town’s website.

The presentation itself will not be available but the actual report by LWLP, containing much of the information that was given Thursday during a public meeting, will be uploaded to burnsharbor-in.gov once it is ready in about three weeks, Redevelopment Commi-ssion administrator Joe Rurode told the Tribune after deadline Friday.

 

By JEFF SCHULTZ

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 succeed.

Completing the 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 hospitality.

Small town with many sides

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.

Also:

-- 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.

-- Parks, 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.

LWLP Project 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.

Puzzle pieces

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.

LWLP has transformed towns and cities big and small, Miller said, to become thriving market places.

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 National Lakeshore.

Audience members were invited to talk one on one with the presenters and ask questions after the presentation.

Presentation online

Reim said 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.

 

 

Posted 7/10/2015

 
 
 
 

 

 

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