Valparaiso seeks public comment on Central Park Plaza expansion
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent September 26, 2013 7:26PM
This is an artists' conception of the expanded Central Park Plaza in Valparaiso. | Image provided by Design Organization
Updated: October 28, 2013 7:43AM
VALPARAISO — In two sessions at City Hall designed to gather public input, the city unveiled two possible expansions of downtown Central Park Plaza on Thursday.
Both have an open-air pavilion west of Lafayette Street and the current park’s stage, then an activities building west of that.
The activities building would go on the Indiana Avenue parking lot south of Napoleon Center, which the city acquired about a year ago, according to City Administrator Bill Oeding.
The plans differ in whether the city will block off Lafayette — between the current park and the pavilion — permanently or seasonally.
“We did it this summer to see what it’d look like, and it worked,” Oeding said. “I honestly had more people say they didn’t care than they did.”
If open, Lafayette would be one-way going north to south
The pavilion would have an ice rink in winter and the farmers’ market and other events in the summer and could expand east onto Lafayette, Oeding said.
The activities building would have skate rentals, storage and the Zamboni for the ice rink, he said.
Parks Superintendent John Seibert said there could also be room for birthday parties, but the size of the building has not been determined.
“We’re listening to people’s responses and input before we finalize this,” Seibert said.
Work would begin after Popcorn Fest in 2014 and be ready for summer 2015.
Seibert said the city is looking for donors and sponsors now.
For most people, the concern was traffic, and they favored having Lafayette open at least sometimes for spaces.
“I’m not sure what to think yet (about the plans). The parking is an issue already. I like that they want to use it year-round. It’ll be good for business,” Kim White of Kernels and Kones said.
She said the plans show a loss of about 32 parking places downtown, so even seasonal parking on Lafayette would be good.
Resident Kelly Schwedland said he likes how downtown has changed over the decade, and this would help him in his position as entrepreneur in residence with Elevate Ventures.
Many from Chicago don’t want to locate to “a cornfield,” he said, but Valparaiso now has the public transportation and thriving downtown they look for.
Other suggestions were to move planned climbable sculptures from the west side rest area to the center of the park, improve the sewer smells downtown and get restaurants to clean grease traps when full.
Valpo Viennas owner Pat Truax asked for some sort of directory for local businesses that are hurt by big events.
People more often go through drive-thrus to get something fast and get their seats, he said