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
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
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.