Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Porter master plan aims to revitalize downtown

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By PAULENE POPARAD

Is it a matter of downtown Porter not tooting its own horn, or is there not enough to toot about?

That’s a question consultant Greg Calpino of SEH, the Porter Redevelopment Commission and audience members considered at a downtown master plan workshop Tuesday.

Oct. 23 at approximately 7:30 p.m. SEH staff will present options and alternatives to make downtown Porter more vital with greater sustainability, and by year’s end a preferred plan will be developed.

Calpino reported on the results of a recent print/online survey completed by more than 100 respondents.

By far 82 percent believe Lincoln Street is downtown Porter, followed distantly by Franklin Street, Wagner Road and Hawthorne Park. Calpino identified downtown arrival corridors as Wagner (Jackson Boulevard in Chesterton), Beam Street, Francis Street (15th Street), Waverly Road and Woodlawn Avenue.

The main reason people visit downtown Porter is for dining (69 percent) followed by festivals/events, visiting the town hall and Hageman Library.

Yet when asked where respondents normally dine out, Chesterton --- both downtown and Indian Boundary Road --- won out followed by Valparaiso in popularity before Porter. As for where respondents shop, Porter was ranked last.

Calpino said Porter shouldn’t want to replicate what’s already being offered in other areas but rather build off of what’s existing or create a niche market for itself, yet there are challenges that have to be overcome.

Downtown Porter doesn’t have a direct interchange off Interstate 94, a designated truck route goes through the downtown, and multiple sets of railroad tracks separate it from Chesterton. Porter has a growing hike/bike trail network, but it’s still a distance to downtown from Porter’s lakefront, the state/federal parks and the U.S. 20/Indiana 49 corridor.

In short, downtown Porter is a long, winding road away from traffic, said Calpino.

When people get there, he continued, the perception is parking is generally adequate but could be better configured; there are good bones in place but architecture and streetscapes could be improved; healthier, family-friendly dining options are needed; and attractiveness, cleanliness and a desire for events were top focus areas for an improved downtown.

It’s possible to leverage the popularity of Hawthorne Park to promote Porter’s downtown, said Calpino, but how best should that be done? Land use and appropriate zoning changes also could offer significant redevelopment opportunities, he added.

In two weeks Calpino said SEH will concentrate more on specific types of businesses that might want to locate in Porter, or that respondents indicated they’d like to see here. The latter included a grocer, big-box store, clothing and hardware.

Commented Calpino, “I think there is opportunity. Not all your needs are full.”

 

Posted 10/11/2012