Chesterton Tribune

Porter eyes new waterpark for Indiana 49 corridor

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By PAULENE POPARAD

The Town of Porter Redevelopment Commission will meet at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 25 to review a draft $240,000 sub-area plan that will guide $30 million in future Indiana 49 corridor development between the Indiana Dunes State Park and Interstate 94.

The first phase of the Gateway to the Indiana Dunes project tentatively calls for construction of a hotel and family-entertainment complex having both an indoor and outdoor waterpark on 21 acres followed by pedestrian-friendly shopping and restaurants as well as family vacation villas and a retreat center with detached cottages. Implementation could take up to 15 years.

The targeted private-sector Gateway investment, according to the sub-area plan done by consultant SEH, is about $115 million over the next 20 years. The commission approved a 2011 contract with SEH at Friday’s special meeting.

The Gateway study area extends to Waverly Road on the west, Tremont Road on the east and into downtown Porter and other infill areas for complementary development that will serve both full-time residents and lure day-tripper tourists to extend their stays benefiting the region as well as surrounding communities.

The sub-area plan and other work was funded with $1.8 million awarded Porter in November, 2009 by the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

The corridor project is being coordinated with the Indiana Department of Transportation. INDOT is a major player as the reconstructed Indiana 49 would become the Dunes Kankakee Parkway with a roundabout at Munson Road to serve the Porter County Visitor Center.

INDOT currently is working on Indiana 49 bridges over U.S. 20, U.S. 12 and the South Shore tracks. Porter’s using $200,000 in RDA money to add stylized lettering, lighting and design elements to the bridges.

Porter is lead agency for the Gateway and officials initially thought they had to go back to the RDA asking for $17.6 million in additional funds, but Friday town director of engineering Matt Keiser said Porter’s now learned the entire $19.4 million was awarded in 2009.

This week town representatives will be in Indianapolis asking the RDA to release a second-year disbursement including about $5 million for construction of Porter’s 3.95-mile leg of the new Dunes Kankakee hike/bike trail south from U.S. 12 along Indiana 49.

A $900,00 trail engineering/design study has been ongoing this year.

On a parallel course with the Gateway, the Porter Redevelopment Commission is having SEH draft preliminary plans for The Brickyard, 30 acres the commission purchased for $350,000 in hopes of extending Porter’s downtown west along Beam Street with future municipal uses, neighborhood shops and single-family/townhome living units, all anchored around a senior housing complex.

Snyder praises “exciting” plans

2009/2010 commission president Bruce Snyder opened the meeting with a statement praising the great things the town has been experiencing, and he took his name out of contention for 2011 president due to health reasons and time constraints although he will remain on the commission.

Member Michele Bollinger unanimously was elected president and Al Raffin as vice-president in his absence. Vote was 4-0. Deputy town clerk-treasurer Karen Spanier was retained as secretary.

According to Snyder, “We have taken great strides these past few years to move our Town forward and at the same time preserving it as a special place to live and work. Town of Porter citizens can be proud of their town officials and their vision and leadership.”

Snyder cited three awards the town has received, and that local banks are investing in Porter.

"The most exciting part is that we are just beginning to see the vision and possibilities in store for us as we help lead not only Porter County but the region as well, “ he added. “Personally, I have been told over and over again by people from all sides how exciting it is to see these wonderful things taking place.”

Continued Snyder, “Having said that, I am the first to realize that my leadership style this past year has at times been very abrasive....I realize that at times I have not been publicly responsive to public inquiries and have not treated some residents properly. For this I am very sorry. There is no excuse for my behavior. It is not becoming of a public official, nor is it the actions of a Christian.”

More facade grants this year

Keiser said the Duneland Economic Development Corp. plans to offer a total $30,000 this year for facade grants for local businesses. Last year $20,000 was available and three Porter businesses were among those getting grants for building facelifts.

The Porter Town Council and Redevelopment Commission jointly financed $5,000 in matching funds to help their businesses score more points on last year’s applications.

2011 DEDC applications are due Feb. 23 with a Jan. 21 workshop planned to answer business owners’ questions. Bollinger said having Porter offer local matches was an outstanding success and on Snyder’s motion the commission agreed to do the same again.

Commission member Trevin Fowler, who also serves as Town Council president, said he wants to improve communication between the boards so Bollinger, also a council member, offered to give reports on commission projects.

 

Posted 1/17/2011