For the consulting
firm hired by the Chesterton Redevelopment Commission to design a facelift
for half-mile of South Calumet Road between Porter Ave. and the Pope
O’Connor Ditch--the so-called Calumet Connection, linking the Downtown with
the South Calumet Business District--the basic challenge is finding
opportunities to genuinely enhance folks’ quality of life within the
physical constraints posed by a neighborhood mostly built out years ago.
On Monday, Jason
Griffin and Jessica Gordon, landscape architects with Butler Fairman &
Seufert, hosted a four-hour open house at the town hall, to give the public
an overview of the project’s scope and take input. By 7 p.m.--when the Town
Council convened its regularly scheduled meeting--only three citizens had
provided comment but neither Griffin nor Gordon was especially disappointed.
Earlier in the day,
they’d hosted a well-attended stakeholder meeting, with NIPSCO and NIRPC
reps on hand as well as someone from the Porter County Convention,
Recreation, and Visitor Commission. And on the next day, Tuesday, they were
scheduled to talk with the owners of private property along the targeted
stretch of South Calumet Road.
But with plenty of
downtime on Monday afternoon, Griffin had a chance to speak at length to the
Chesterton Tribune about the Calumet Connection.
Here’s the first
thing to know: the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission knows
the Calumet Connection by another name, the Dunes-Kankakee Trail. Strictly
speaking, NIRPC knows the Calumet Connection as a very small section of the
D-K Trail as it runs through the Town of Chesterton, from its trailhead at
Indiana Dunes State Park to its terminus somewhere along the Kankakee River
Here’s the second
thing to know: because the Calumet Connection is technically part of the D-K
Trail, its sidewalk--running along the west side of South Calumet Road--must
have a minimum width of eight feet in order to handle two-way bike traffic,
Griffin told the Tribune (or to put it another way, in order for the
town to qualify for grants when it comes time to identify funding sources).
And that eight-foot
standard is the kind of design element which Butler Fairman & Seufert must
find a way to accommodate within the neighborhood’s existing physical
constraints, what Griffin calls “pinch points.” Those pinch points include,
for instance, a four-foot length of sidewalk by Danny O’s. Somehow another
four feet of width will have to be “taken back” from one side of the
sidewalk or the other, Griffin said. Only there really aren’t four feet
available on the Danny O’s side, so they may have to come from the roadway
Other pinch points:
a NIPSCO pole, south of Danny O’s, in need of re-location; public
street-trees in need of removal because they’re sick; and the Pope O’Connor
culvert at the south end of the Calumet Connection, just south of Abbey
Lane, where northbound motorists going too fast run the risk of bottoming
These are the sorts
of constraints designers will need to consider, Griffin said, when they
develop a plan for landscaping and tree planting (“There’s a nice tree line
in places but we’ll definitely be putting in more street-trees,” he noted;
“the idea is to keep it as green as possible”), signage and lighting, street
furnishings, cross walks, and green infrastructure (like rain gardens).
There aren’t, as
such, any specific features of the Calumet Connection which immediately
strike Griffin as opportunities for interesting or innovative design.
sees the half-mile as a whole as the real opportunity: to link the Downtown
and the South Calumet Business District--and maybe also the Chesterton Post
Office located uneasily between the two--not just to each other but to the
neighborhoods. “How can we get the residents connected in?” as Griffin
phrased it. “Families might like to walk to the Downtown and they might be
more willing to take a stroll along a nicer, more appealing route. The
Calumet Connection is identified as a gateway to the Downtown.”
Getting more people
to walk has all kinds of benefits. Folks are healthier. Fewer cars are on
the road. The air is cleaner. But there’s a commercial upside too. More
pedestrians in the Downtown means more exposure for business.
Griffin and Gordon
have taken the input received at the open house and the other two meetings
back to the office, where they’ll develop a draft plan to be presented
publicly on Sept. 24. They’ll then make revisions, after consulting with the
Calumet Connection Steering Committee--Town Council Members Jim Ton, R-1st,
and Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, Town Engineer Mark O’Dell, and Assistant Town
Engineer Chris Nesper--and present the final plan on Nov. 9.