Chesterton Tribune


Big dreams and small changes would boost Porter downtown's long term viability

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A final report proposing enhancements and upgrades for downtown Porter will be completed in two weeks for review, and Dec. 11 consultants want to hear what the public thinks about it.

Greg Calpino of SEH of Indiana showed a sparse audience Tuesday the preferred concept plan for the downtown including 90-degree parking in front of the popular Lincoln Street pubs and restaurants.

All angle parking on the south side of Lincoln would be eliminated because 4 feet of it encroaches on a railroad right-of-way, but some angle parking on the north side would be provided in the blocks farther east for an overall net gain of 60 spaces downtown.

Initial thought to designate a separate hike/bike lane along Lincoln in addition to the two travel lanes were scrapped, said Calpino, but the sidewalk would be widened to 8 feet and bikes can share a travel lane.

He didnít rule out negotiations with Amtrak over allowing the town to use its right-of-way in some manner, even perhaps asking that a passenger station be built in Porter as part of a $71 million rail-corridor upgrade between Chicago and Michigan. However, a new station ďis not an easy process. I donít even want to convey it would be. I wouldnít hang the plan on this, that it would be a driver.Ē

Calpino said the railroad may want concessions like closing a Porter rail crossing if Amtrak agrees to support downtown revitalization in other ways such as allowing/funding a decorative wooden fence along the right-of-way, or building a suitable bike-trail crossing to span the busy rail junctionís multiple tracks.

Currently, hiker/bikers are on their own to reach Chestertonís Prairie Duneland Trail from Porterís Brickyard Trail that ends at Lincoln and will be renamed the Dunes Kankakee Trail in the future.

One less crossing might be attractive to Amtrak, Calpino added, as semi-trucks and tankers cross the tracks because Lincoln Street is Porterís designated truck route. Route adjustments would require input from Chesterton, where trucks are sometimes headed.

Moving downtown development east along Lincoln and building sidewalks with wayfinding signage and decorative lighting would connect it with Hawthorne Park, said Calpino, for which a separate master plan should be developed. Its internal road circulation is not good, he noted, and larger events there need support amenities.

Porterís planned Orchard Pedestrian Trail will go down Waverly Road and take a jog though Hawthorne, another good reason to better connect the area with Porterís downtown, said Calpino.

Ways to let visitors know the downtown is there are part of the study as well.

Bridges and overpasses at key Porter gateways on U.S. 20 and Interstate 94 could be landscaped and attractive signage installed giving directions. ďInstead of (a bridge) being a hulking piece of infrastructure, it could be an arrival point for the downtown,Ē according to Calpino.

The final master plan will include recommendations for phasing, funding sources, and business recruitment to fill the 27 acres of property in the downtown district available for new development. Also part of the plan will be new design standards and ways for existing businesses to make improvements to their properties.


Posted 11/15/2012