Chesterton Tribune

Chesterton residents favor traditional designs in survey

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By PAULENE POPARAD

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 points.

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 important.

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 apart.

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.

 

 

Posted 10/16/2009