Chesterton Tribune



Porter RDC on the hunt for downtown plan money

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The Porter Redevelopment Commission may have found a way to help finance revitalization of the downtown guided by its adoption Tuesday of a new downtown master plan.

RDC president Greg Stinson said money could be available in 12 to 18 months for mixed-use areas under the Creating Livable Communities program.

Administered by the Federal Highway Administration, its goal is to improve access to affordable housing, provide more transportation options and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment. CLC also hopes to enhance economic competitiveness, support the existing community and coordinate policies while leveraging investment.

Three efforts are converging to jump-start Porter’s downtown: its creation last year of a Riverfront District making the area near the Little Calumet River north of downtown ripe for redevelopment and recreational use; the RDC’s ownership of the vacant Brickyard property adjacent to the downtown that was promoted for retail/residential development; and the new Brickyard hike/bike trail that will connect with other planned trails to expand non-motorized access.

Stinson said town officials had a recent meeting with representatives of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission about the CLC program. “I think NIRPC (was) pretty pleased.”

With member Elka Nelson absent Tuesday, the RDC unanimously adopted a new downtown master plan prepared last year by consultant SEH. The plan was the subject of two public input meetings, was open for public comment for an extended period and was available on the town website, Stinson noted.

RDC member Jeannine Virtue said the plan is fluid so how would changes occur. Stinson said the downtown plan doesn’t change zoning or town ordinances, and it’s a concept like Porter’s Gateway to the Indiana Dunes plan for the U.S. 20/Indiana 49 corridors so either plan can be amended as needed.

From the audience, Jennifer Klug asked if the downtown plan incorporates major changes slated for the Porter junction railroad tracks south of the downtown. Stinson confirmed a number of discussions have taken place taking into account what will happen there.

With the adopted downtown plan in hand, Stinson said Porter now can approach the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority and others to start getting money to implement it. The RDA previously approved $19 million for the Gateway plan and Porter hopes to tie the downtown project to it.

In other business, Virtue asked when the barricaded Brickyard Trail pedestrian bridge over U.S. 20 at Howe Road will be completed and open. Town attorney Gregg Sobkowski said final details are being resolved on a purchased easement. Director of Development Mike Barry said two weeks work remains once construction resumes.

The RDC also voted 4-0 to approve an amended contract with the Porter Park Board for its employees to maintain current and future town hike/bike trails. This year a base $20,000 would be paid to the park in four increments with a maximum additional $5,000 for equipment/materials. The Park Board has yet to approve the final contract.

Haas & Associates engineers was hired to provide construction management for upcoming construction of the Orchard Pedestrian Way hike/bike trail; $123,250 for administration and an additional $10,000 for technical testing will be paid. Warren Thiede of Haas said because the project is funded with a federal/state grant, more work is involved.

Town Council meets briefly

Members, with Nelson absent, approved on final reading an ordinance aimed at controlling protests that might occur prior to, during or after a funeral or burial service in town. Sobkowski later said the ordinance includes separate memorial services not held in conjunction with a funeral or burial.

Porter Park director Brian Bugajski said Rebuilding Together Duneland will undertake projects at Porter Cove and Hawthorne parks this Saturday, and he’s requested 30 signs for town parks that use GPS technology to identify exact locations in case of emergencies.

Stinson commended Porter Public Works employees who during the recent rains worked tirelessly to assure lift-station pumps were operating.

Stinson was sporting his new bald look following a head-shaving for charity at Valparaiso University. At $2,500 he raised the most money for pediatric cancer research of any single participant. “Thanks to you who supported me and are responsible for my new look.” With formerly curly hair down to his collar, “I wasn’t cutting my locks off for nothing,” he teased.






Posted 4/24/2013