Traditional architecture fared well with 84 respondents to an online
visual-preference business survey, and the Round the Clock Restaurant and
the Coffee Creek shops along County Road 1050N are examples of the building
details they want to see in Chesterton in the future.
Those were among the findings described by planner Shannon Armstrong of the
Brick Industry Association, who performed the free study for the Chesterton
Advisory Plan Commission in August.
The results were detailed at Thursday’s meeting; the purpose of the survey
was to maximize commercial design potential, improve the appearance of the
town and assist in defining its character.
Armstrong presented recommendations based on the survey preferences, which
prompted commission members to disagree whether such new rules should be
required standards or recommended guidelines.
Lacking a consensus, Armstrong was asked to work with a committee of
commission and town officials on a draft of possible standards after hearing
an Oct. 21 presentation at 6:30 p.m. at the town hall on a draft
comprehensive plan including a downtown overlay.
Commission members Emerson DeLaney and Mike Bannon said requiring 360-degree
architecture with all four sides appealing, making parking lots
pedestrian-friendly with landscaped walkways, and screening/buffering
service areas like dumpsters could be three non-controversial starting
Bannon said he would be hesitant for the town to dictate design aesthetics
or taste, and member George Stone favored perhaps basic mandatory standards
but aesthetic guidelines only.
Stone described Broadway and Calumet Road in downtown Chesterton as a
hodge-podge of historically significant buildings arrived at over many years
as opposed to the Coffee Creek shops’ cookie-cutter, homogeneous appearance.
According to member Thomas Kopko, “If you don’t have design standards, you
end up with a hodge-podge that looks goofy.” Stone challenged Kopko to come
up with one development that looks good to everybody in town.
President Fred Owens said planners try to win concessions from developers
through negotiation. “We need to make these design standards so they have to
do it,” especially the use of high-quality building materials.
Member Jeff Trout said if you start high and hold the bar high with
mandatory design standards, developers know the next builder will have to
meet the same criteria and that maintains the value of everyone’s
investment. Stone conceded that without actual requirements, the standards
desired might not necessarily get built.
Said Armstrong, “What I’m saying is put it down on paper and identify which
elements help define what Chesterton is.”
Describing her survey results, she said ranked as most important to
respondents --- 90.5 percent town residents or business owners and 61
percent males between ages 51 and 70 --- were landscaping, architectural
design and parking, lighting, pedestrian access, building materials, signage
and building height/mass in that order.
The respondents found downtown Chesterton, the Indian Boundary Road and
Indiana 49 shopping districts as the most popular commercial areas with
Calumet Avenue, Coffee Creek and West Broadway less so.
Asked to rate some existing commercial ground-based signs, respondents chose
that of CVS as very appealing followed by the Cold Stone Creamery
development and Hunters Point signs.
Seventy-seven percent of those responding thought Chesterton should promote
sustainable design policies like solar lighting and porous asphalt pavement.
Regarding having four finished building sides like the Auto Zone store, 51.8
percent thought 360-architecture is important and 40 percent somewhat
When shown photos of Valparaiso buildings, their streetscape landscaping,
patios, window and roof details were popular; when shown photos of downtown
Chesterton its building materials with ample brick and masonry ranked as the
highest element followed by streetscape with signage the least appealing.
Regarding other Chesterton building styles, Armstrong said respondents
ranked the new Pizza Hut/Wing Street high in most categories. The Kentucky
Fried Chicken/A&W restaurant and Taco Bell also were higher ranked by
respondents; the Dunkin Donuts building was not as well received.
Armstrong said appealing storefronts have design details like awnings,
canopies, recesses, projections and display windows that set buildings
As for her recommendations, Armstrong said the town could adopt design
standards for commercial areas outside the downtown district based on
expressed survey preferences. Overall, the decisions the town makes affect
future development, and developers and builders leave behind a built
environment for decades to come, she concluded.