Revitalizing downtown Porter faces challenges, consultants said Tuesday,
because of a truck route that goes through it and because of planned but
as-yet unknown upgrades along the Amtrak line just south of downtown.
The latter could pose an additional complication because Lincoln Street,
Porter’s main retail row, sits 4 feet into the railroad right-of-way and
parking on Lincoln’s south side could be threatened.
“But that’s not to say that might not be negotiable,” said Beth Shrader, a
planning and landscape architecture specialist with SEH of Indiana.
Matt Reardon of SEH said Lake County communities like Dyer and Griffith
received money from the Canadian National railroad for parking and
beautification improvements as well as designation of whistle-free “quiet
Jeffrey Bailey suggested Porter ask for an Amtrak flag stop. Shrader said
there are none in the Duneland area.
She recommended Porter be ready with a wish list for Amtrak. Agreed Reardon,
“This may be our chance. Otherwise, it’s forever hold our peace.”
Downtown Porter business owner Ken Timm wasn’t hopeful. “In my experience,
talking to the railroad is like talking to the wall. It’s like the National
Lakeshore.” Reardon said as part of Amtrak’s preliminary studies to receive
federal money, the railroad has to seek input from affected communities
A long discussion ensued over how to divert trucks away from downtown;
several alternate routes have been considered through the years but
rejected. Semi-trucks currently use Wagner Road from U.S. 20 south to
Lincoln, then east on it making two tight turns, sometimes threatening
parked cars and requiring vehicles in other lanes to back up.
Ron Trigg said Lincoln Street is dangerous and unattractive because of the
trucks and until the downtown resolves those issues, it won’t attract
Waverly Road has been thought the most viable alternative, but it was
described as narrow and not having adequate road base. Said Porter Public
Works director Brenda Brueckheimer, “It’s going to be a hard route to go,
but if it’s planned and engineered properly, it can be done.”
Reardon said Porter has to be cautious that it doesn’t help one area and
hurt another by moving the truck route.
He and Shrader laid out three concepts for downtown renewal that would
maintain the current core, strengthen the core and even expand it. In six to
eight weeks final recommendations and implementation strategies will be
Current options include revised parking (parallel, 90-degree or additional
off-street parking); a possible hike/bike lane on Lincoln; facade,
landscaping and signage improvements; better lighting and marketing; and
active business recruitment with town incentives.
Careful development of the town-owned Brickyard parcel at Lincoln and Sexton
Avenue should not be discounted, said Reardon. Some level of contamination
has been found there, but remediation could be tied to the specific use
To what degree Hawthorne Park should become part of an expanded downtown was
discussed. While some thought doing so would strengthen the core, others
feared over-development of Hawthorne would ruin what makes it desirable now.
In a recent survey of downtown preferences, respondents said they wanted
more family-friendly restaurants and retail. Reardon said he’s reached out
to developers he’s previously done business with asking what it would take
for them to invest in Porter’s downtown.
The town is in the process of creating a riverfront district to obtain
additional liquor licenses to jump-start redevelopment of The Spa. Reardon
said developers generally ask how the town is willing to help. If not with
you, “It will happen to you,” he warned.