Valpo residents weigh in with their visions for community
BY JAMES D. WOLF JR. Post-Tribune correspondent February 25, 2014 6:50PM
An estimated 94 people turned out for the second Big Idea Workshop to give input for developing and directing Valparaiso for the next 20 years. | James D. Wolf Jr./For the Post-Tribune
Updated: February 26, 2014 5:17PM
VALPARAISO — Almost 200 residents helped plan the city’s future on Monday and Tuesday, and city officials want everyone else to attend the final meeting on Wednesday.
The three resident input sessions are the Big Idea Workshops, part of the Valpo Next project to plan the city’s next 20 years by using input from the residents.
The final meeting will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Valparaiso High School cafeteria, , 2727 N. Campbell St.
“My goal is to have as many people as possible in this process, regardless of age,” Mayor Jon Costas said at Tuesday’s afternoon meeting at Grace Chapel at 157 Lafayette St.
Valpo Next co-chairwoman Elizabeth Lynn asked the more than 90 people attending Tuesday to not just tell friends and neighbors how much they enjoyed it but to get students to come, too.
The workshops have attendees break into small groups led by volunteer facilitators trained by consulting firm Planning Next.
The groups identify what they think are critical issues and priorities and share ideas.
Workshops are the second public phase following the creation of a steering committee of 50 residents and community and business leaders, and this round started Monday with about 80 people attending the workshop at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
Jamie Greene of Planning Next said the next meeting would be the final week of May.
After his firm collates and categorizes the information from the Big Idea workshops and from online, Planning Next will ask the public for help interpreting the information. A final report and plan is expected by October.
Kevin Crawford, a resident for about two years, and Chuck Ventura, who moved back to the city about 10 years ago, both came with the idea of fitness in mind.
“I’m going to push for a complete streets program — that our roads are designed for all users, not just cars,” Crawford said.
Ventura said living an active life was important.
Mindy Reineke, a 20-year resident, said the city’s a good place to raise a family but, “I just wanted to have some input or have a say in some ideas being generated.”
Marvin McDaniels brought daughter Michelle McCorker and granddaughter Dovie McCorker to Monday’s workshop.
“She’s the one to benefit from this,” McDaniels said about Dovie. “We’re good, but now we’re going to get better.”
At both meetings, certain ideas came up often: that Valparaiso should be one of the top cities to live or retire or attend school in, that a South Shore Line commuter spur comes in, that the city preserves and creates green space, that the city gets lake water or cleans up its well water, that the city gets desirable and professional jobs, that there’s an emphasis on sustainability and that elementary schools remain neighborhood-based.
Others suggested public transportation grow with the city, the city get a community pool, Valparaiso University students interact more with the community, the city promote revitalizing old neighborhoods (including facade grants) and the city increase tourism.
The small group sessions began with people writing what headlines they think appear in 20 years based on Valpo Next.
Some envisioned valet parking for downtown and a Hilltop Neighborhood art fair, and one wrote, “Number of roundabouts approaches 3,000.”
City officials want those who can’t make the final meeting to give their insights at http://valponext.org/ or in an online forum discussion at http://valponext.mindmixer.com/.