The Chesterton Town
Council is looking to obtain Indiana Main Street designation for the
Downtown business district.
Such a designation
would make the town eligible for a variety of grants for economic
development, planning, “quick impact” fixes and improvements, historic
renovation, and blight clearance.
unanimously at their meeting Monday night to begin the Main Street
application process, following a PowerPoint presented by MS4 Operator
Jennifer Gadzala, Indiana Dunes Tourism chief Lorelei Weimer, and Duneland
Chamber of Commerce President Maura Durham.
In Indiana, the
agency responsible for coordinating the Main Street program is the Office of
Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA), whose brief is “to provide resources and
technical assistance to aid communities in shaping and achieving their
vision for economic development,” and to help them “build relevant and
economically thriving places where people want to live, grow, work, and
Street’s approach to doing so is fourfold:
vitality: Building a diverse economic base and catalyzing smart investment.
Creating an inviting, inclusive atmosphere in the downtown as well as
historic character and people-centered public places.
Marketing a downtown’s defining assets and supporting a buy-local
Organization: Developing leadership and strong organizational capacity.
At the heart of the
Main Street program, however, is “placemaking,” Gadzala told the council,
“strengthening the connection between people and their places, supporting
people’s health and happiness by having a vital and active downtown.” The
Park Department and the Chamber, spearheaded by the Chesterton Branding
Leadership Team (CBLT), have already done a great deal in the Downtown in
the way of placemaking, Gadzala added: the boxcar restroom and caboose
comfort station and associated landscaping of Thomas Centennial Park; the
art-wrapped trash cans; the hanging flower planters.
The first steps in
the Main Street application process are mostly bureaucratic: the Chamber’s
not-for-profit arm, the Duneland Economic Development Company (DEDC), has
already agreed to make the CBLT a standing committee of the DEDC, but the
CBLT must also obtain its own separate 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status.
Meanwhile, the council must provide a letter of support and commitment,
which did occasion a bit of discussion at Monday’s meeting.
Member Jim Ton,
R-1st, promptly made a motion to provide such a letter and for his own part
pledged his “unconditional support of the Main Street program.”
Fisher, I-5th, however, had some questions. “I’ve had the pleasure to have
conversations with Lorelei and Maura,” she said. “I think this is a great
presentation. But it’s very undefined as to what we’d be doing in the
Downtown. There’d have to be some structure and terms put in place as to how
it would function. That’s my only real issue. I trust the CBLT. I just want
to make sure we have a structure in place.”
At the moment,
Associate Town Attorney Julie Paulson noted, only a letter of commitment is
necessary. She indicated, though, that Fisher has a point. “I’m happy to
engage in the process,” Paulson said, “putting some parameters in the
relationship between the town and the CLBT and the Chamber.”
Weimer also noted
that whatever initiatives the CLBT might pursue--should it obtain Main
Street designation--would be largely determined by the Chesterton
Comprehensive Plan, which is currently being updated. “The CLBT plan and the
Comprehensive Plan will fit together very well,” she said. “The
Comprehensive Plan will be the driver.”
“There’s been great
cooperation between the members of the CLBT and the town so far,” Gadzala
added. “And if there are moneys to be spent, there’d have to be approval
from the Town Council.”
satisfied and voted with her colleagues to approve a letter of commitment.
At the end of the meeting, she also took a moment to volunteer her own time
to enlist the support of Downtown businesses for the Main Street program.