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Planning group to look for NWI’s ‘livable centers’

Updated: February 12, 2013 2:34PM



Creating Northwest Indiana’s tomorrow today was central to the discussions of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission Comprehensive Regional Plan implementation committee Thursday morning.

NIRPC planner Eman Ibrahim told the group about steps being taken toward implementing recommendations of the Comprehensive Regional Plan 2040, including the identification of so-called “livable centers.”

“In the planning process, community centers were identified as dots on the map. Now we’re trying to identify the exact boundaries,” said Ibrahim.

Instrumental in shaping the future of Northwest Indiana is revitalizing existing urban cores and limiting development outside of that core, according to Ibrahim.

To assure development complies with the goals of the comprehensive plan a new funding source is being created.

The new pot of money will target livable centers with grants designed to improve the quality of life and ultimately limit the use of the automobile, Ibrahim said.

The new grant program will redirect some existing revenue from Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Authority and Indiana Department of Transportation grant programs.

Money could be spent to improve connectivity infrastructure, such as sidewalks and streetscapes, within the livable centers.

Ibrahim hopes to implement the new program beginning in July. Grants will be restricted to only those areas within a formally delineated livable center.

Among the criteria used for designation include length of city block, presence of sidewalks, density and mixture of land use.

Ibrahim said that some urban areas have clearly defined livable centers, such as Valparaiso, Gary, Michigan City and Hammond.

Portage and Merrillville are lacking certain criteria for designation, according to Ibrahim, as having no clearly defined downtown, not being pedestrian friendly or not having a balanced residential employment base.

Ball State University students will help Ibrahim delineate the livable center in the Interstate 65/U.S. 30 corridor.



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