Chesterton Tribune



Downtown survey: 71 percent favor RR quiet zone, also longer hours, more events

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Last summer, the Chesterton Branding Leadership Team (CBLT) conducted the Downtown Chesterton Survey to learn what residents and non-residents do in Downtown Chesterton, what activities and businesses they want in the Downtown, and whether they support Chesterton’s becoming a quiet/safe train zone.

The final report is available at

The CBLT’s mission is to create and support a vibrant, thriving Chesterton that celebrates the

“art of life” while enhancing the community’s historical charm. “To create a vibrant Downtown we need to know what residents and non-residents value in Downtown Chesterton, which is why the CBLT conducted the survey,” said Lorelei Weimer, co-chair of the CBLT and the executive director of the Porter County Convention, Recreation, and Visitor Commission.

Craig O’Brien, also a CBLT member who owns a Downtown building and Ashley’s Jewelry By Design, added, “The survey provides valuable information to the Chesterton leadership, which includes the elected officials, members of town boards and commissions, and the town department heads. The information from this survey will guide them as they make future decisions about the Downtown.”

A total of 1,361 people completed the survey, a large enough sample size to mean that data are accurate to within plus or minus 3 percent, Weimer noted. “It demonstrates that people care about the future of Downtown Chesterton because they took the time to complete the survey.”

Survey results include the following:

¥71 percent of respondents were Chesterton residents; 12 percent, Porter; 2 percent, Burns Harbor; and 15 percent from outside of Duneland.

¥4 percent were Generation Z (21 and under); 32 percent, Millennials (22 to 37); 38 percent, Generation X (38 to 53); 24 percent, Baby Boomers (54 to 72); and 3 percent, the Silent Generation (73 and older). “Downtown Chesterton is for all ages to enjoy, and I wish we had more surveys completed from the Gen Zs and the Silent Generation, so we had a better gauge of what they wanted in the Downtown,” Weimer said.

¥What do you usually do in Downtown Chesterton? 74 percent, dining; 72 percent, the European Market; 34 percent, bar or wine tasting room; 34 percent, shopping; and 26 percent, other activities including bank, library, barber/hair salon, park, work, or ice cream.

¥How long do you typically stay in Downtown Chesterton? 64 percent, one hour or less; 29 percent, two hours; and 7 percent, three hours or longer.

¥Without question, the respondents want to see the businesses in Downtown Chesterton modify their hours and stay open later: 78 percent, business hours between 10 a.m. to 7-8 p.m. Only 8 percent wanted the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Multiple people indicated they don’t frequent Downtown businesses because they are closed when they get home from work.

¥A majorityÑ71 percentÑsupport the Town of Chesterton’s establishing a quiet/safe train zone. “Creating a quiet train zone is a hot topic in Chesterton,” Weimer said. “Respondents to the survey did not know in advance that we were going to ask a question about the quiet train zone. Multiple people wrote in the open-ended question sections that Chesterton needs to quiet the trains. Many were very passionate about this. People commented that it's futile to put energy into creating Downtown activities and events because the constant train horns ruin the atmosphere."

Open-end Questions

The survey included three open-ended questions, and each question had over 1,000 responses. A sampling of responses:

¥What changes do you want to see in Downtown Chesterton? More dining. Better appearance and infrastructure. Trains: eliminate train horns, build a train over/underpass, build a viewing platform. Fill empty storefronts. Add more public parking. Businesses open later. Replacement store for Kmart. More options for kids and teenagers. Aggressive development, along the lines of that being pursued in Valparaiso, Crown Point, Whiting, Michigan City, and Portage. More walking and bike paths. More shopping opportunities. Better nightlife. More entertainment. More greenspace. Grocery store options like Aldi's, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods. More events in the park. More pet-friendly.

¥What kinds of activities would you like to see in the Downtown? Chess tournaments. Interactive art activities. Various types of music. Live theater. Full festivals: revivals of the Wizard of Oz and Diana of the Dunes, also a Harry Potter fest. An interactive water feature.

¥What specific ideas do you have for Downtown activities? Live music: local musicians, street music, battles of the bands, Karaoke. Games: bocce ball, shuffleboard, cornhole, board games, family games, trivia, and spike ball. Winter market. Family nights. Ice sculpture contest. Small town fair. Comic cons. Lawnmower race. Senior events. Flashlight hunts. Laser shows. Street vendors. Movies/plays. Car cruises. Arts and crafts. Seminars: cooking, gardening, and photo. Dances. Parades: golf cart, back to school, midnight, and holiday parades. Green/environmental events. Indoor climbing wall and old-fashioned arcade.


“The CBLT has been viewing multiple videos on developing successful downtowns from the Destination Development Association,” said Chesterton Special Projects Coordinator and CBLT members. “One of the most critical ingredients to a thriving downtown is hosting activities and events 265 days a year. That's a lot of days. There is not one entity within our community that can produce that many activities and events. So to pull off 265 days of activities and events a year, we need the town, the park department, community organizations, service clubs, businesses, schools, and individuals to help create and host activities and events in the Downtown.”

“It's the activities and events that drive people to the Downtown and once they are in the Downtown they will shop, dine and experience the other businesses,” Duneland Chamber of Commerce President Maura Durham said. “The Downtown is the heart of Chesterton, and it's a critical part of the economic engine for Chesterton.”

The Downtown Chesterton Survey report can be accessed at

Copies are also available at the Duneland Chamber of Commerce office, 220 Broadway in Chesterton, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.




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