Chesterton Tribune



The 'Calumet Connection': Town eyes revamp of historic South Calumet neighborhood

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For the consulting firm hired by the Chesterton Redevelopment Commission to design a facelift for half-mile of South Calumet Road between Porter Ave. and the Pope O’Connor Ditch--the so-called Calumet Connection, linking the Downtown with the South Calumet Business District--the basic challenge is finding opportunities to genuinely enhance folks’ quality of life within the physical constraints posed by a neighborhood mostly built out years ago.

On Monday, Jason Griffin and Jessica Gordon, landscape architects with Butler Fairman & Seufert, hosted a four-hour open house at the town hall, to give the public an overview of the project’s scope and take input. By 7 p.m.--when the Town Council convened its regularly scheduled meeting--only three citizens had provided comment but neither Griffin nor Gordon was especially disappointed.

Earlier in the day, they’d hosted a well-attended stakeholder meeting, with NIPSCO and NIRPC reps on hand as well as someone from the Porter County Convention, Recreation, and Visitor Commission. And on the next day, Tuesday, they were scheduled to talk with the owners of private property along the targeted stretch of South Calumet Road.

But with plenty of downtime on Monday afternoon, Griffin had a chance to speak at length to the Chesterton Tribune about the Calumet Connection.

Here’s the first thing to know: the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission knows the Calumet Connection by another name, the Dunes-Kankakee Trail. Strictly speaking, NIRPC knows the Calumet Connection as a very small section of the D-K Trail as it runs through the Town of Chesterton, from its trailhead at Indiana Dunes State Park to its terminus somewhere along the Kankakee River near Hebron.

Here’s the second thing to know: because the Calumet Connection is technically part of the D-K Trail, its sidewalk--running along the west side of South Calumet Road--must have a minimum width of eight feet in order to handle two-way bike traffic, Griffin told the Tribune (or to put it another way, in order for the town to qualify for grants when it comes time to identify funding sources).

And that eight-foot standard is the kind of design element which Butler Fairman & Seufert must find a way to accommodate within the neighborhood’s existing physical constraints, what Griffin calls “pinch points.” Those pinch points include, for instance, a four-foot length of sidewalk by Danny O’s. Somehow another four feet of width will have to be “taken back” from one side of the sidewalk or the other, Griffin said. Only there really aren’t four feet available on the Danny O’s side, so they may have to come from the roadway itself.

Other pinch points: a NIPSCO pole, south of Danny O’s, in need of re-location; public street-trees in need of removal because they’re sick; and the Pope O’Connor culvert at the south end of the Calumet Connection, just south of Abbey Lane, where northbound motorists going too fast run the risk of bottoming out.

These are the sorts of constraints designers will need to consider, Griffin said, when they develop a plan for landscaping and tree planting (“There’s a nice tree line in places but we’ll definitely be putting in more street-trees,” he noted; “the idea is to keep it as green as possible”), signage and lighting, street furnishings, cross walks, and green infrastructure (like rain gardens).

What about opportunities?

There aren’t, as such, any specific features of the Calumet Connection which immediately strike Griffin as opportunities for interesting or innovative design.

Rather, Griffin sees the half-mile as a whole as the real opportunity: to link the Downtown and the South Calumet Business District--and maybe also the Chesterton Post Office located uneasily between the two--not just to each other but to the neighborhoods. “How can we get the residents connected in?” as Griffin phrased it. “Families might like to walk to the Downtown and they might be more willing to take a stroll along a nicer, more appealing route. The Calumet Connection is identified as a gateway to the Downtown.”

Getting more people to walk has all kinds of benefits. Folks are healthier. Fewer cars are on the road. The air is cleaner. But there’s a commercial upside too. More pedestrians in the Downtown means more exposure for business.

Griffin and Gordon have taken the input received at the open house and the other two meetings back to the office, where they’ll develop a draft plan to be presented publicly on Sept. 24. They’ll then make revisions, after consulting with the Calumet Connection Steering Committee--Town Council Members Jim Ton, R-1st, and Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, Town Engineer Mark O’Dell, and Assistant Town Engineer Chris Nesper--and present the final plan on Nov. 9.



Posted 7/17/20015




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