growth on the horizon, and ready to meet the challenges
With top infrastructure and development projects in the pipeline, the city of Valparaiso welcomes 2023
When choosing a great place to live there are varying considerations. For many, access to outdoor activities and the opportunity to lead an active lifestyle are high on the list. Fortunately, Valparaiso, Indiana has superb natural assets and provides the right balance between urban amenities and an easy relaxed way of life.
Situated just 50 miles southeast of Chicago, Valparaiso is a thriving community home to over 34,000 residents. The city is a true outdoor recreation destination that features a magnificent natural atmosphere, with hundreds of acres of parklands offering diverse opportunities for all ages, including hiking, biking, golfing, skating and organized sports.
The seat of Porter County and one of just a few Indiana communities with a growing population, Valparaiso is well known for its popular downtown, having won numerous awards for community spaces that are utilized year-round for gatherings and events of all kinds. Downtown’s Central Park Plaza, for example, boasts more than 200,000 visitors each year.
George Douglas (Director of City Development), Mike Jessen (City Administrator), and Kevin Nuppnau (Assistant Director of Valpo Parks) represent the city affectionately known as ‘Valpo.’ Douglas begins with an overview of the community. “Valparaiso is in a great location within Northwest Indiana, close to Chicago as well as the natural beauty of Indiana Dunes National Park and Lake Michigan. We have a fantastic business community that is the bedrock of our city – our residents are very engaged civically and philanthropically, with a great interest in the outdoors.”
“We are the home of Valparaiso University, which hosts over 3,000 undergraduate students, and our Valparaiso Community Schools district is recognized nationally in the top 25 of our state by the Department of Education. Our city has a vibrant downtown with a bustling restaurant scene that naturally attracts residents as well as visitors from throughout the Chicago region and beyond,” he adds.
Nuppnau shares his experience as a member of the city’s award-winning Valpo Parks Department. “I was also born and raised in Valparaiso. I’ve been with Valpo Parks for five years, working alongside a tremendous team to bring outdoor recreational opportunities to the community. We serve greater Valparaiso as well as Center Township, providing programs, events and facilities that serve nearly 40,000 residents”
“We offer more than 700 acres of parkland throughout 22 parks, two golf courses, and a number of other amenities, including Central Park Plaza an outdoor amphitheater in the heart of our downtown. It features a covered pavilion for outdoor events in the summer, and both skating and hockey in the winter. We also have a signature inclusive playground, called ValPlayso. Designed by the community for the community, ValPlayso has been received with enthusiasm,” Nuppnau elaborates.
He also points out that “Our department runs a number of initiatives that continue to elevate our parks system to the next level and allow residents and visitors to congregate in a safe, lively, and accessible environment. Valpo Parks was just named the number one park and recreation agency in the state of Indiana. We appreciate the dedication of our Parks team and are incredibly proud to be recognized by our community and our state.”
Jessen provides insight into Valparaiso’s infrastructure development. “This is the third year of our current administration, and one of the key areas on which we have allocated significant focus and capital is the maintenance of city infrastructure.”
“As our community grows, and it certainly is growing, it is crucial that we recognize how vital taking care of our existing infrastructure is. Our residents are very involved in their local community, and when it comes to contributing to their quality of life, we see roads, sidewalks, pathways and stormwater management as very high-level priorities. We have built, updated, and restored miles of roads, sidewalks, and pathways on a continuous basis over the last three years. There is still a significant amount of work to do, but we have taken a very methodical approach, and our progress has already had a huge effect on safety, accessibility, traffic, and convenience as a result,” he explains.
“Another infrastructure component that rose to the top of the list quite early on in our administration was stormwater management, because, of course, people are rightfully concerned about their properties flooding if water is not channeling properly throughout the city. So, we have spent a significant amount of time, energy, and resources on addressing some long-term issues, improving stormwater management for the long term. Alleyway maintenance and road traffic safety have also been key priorities. Thanks to the expertise of our city engineer, we have worked throughout many neighborhoods to implement traffic calming methods that make roads safer for vehicles and pedestrians alike.”
Economic development in Valparaiso has been geared towards the retention, expansion, and success of existing businesses, says Douglas. “We love to work with existing small, medium, and large businesses to ensure their continued success, particularly in the wake of COVID. A few businesses have outgrown their current spaces, so we are looking at filling some of the last lots in our commercial business parks to accommodate. We have, for example, a large existing company currently operating just under 250,000 sq. ft. looking at a major expansion that will effectively triple the size of their business and double the number of employees in their care. In addition, we recognize that our industrial park is near capacity, so we are partnering with our local and regional utility providers to prepare the next area of development for business growth, which we’ve already identified within the city.”
Douglas identifies major projects underway in the city that have all been designed post-COVID. “Our biggest city projects are The Linc, which is a downtown housing and mixed-use development project that will offer 127 units, ranging from lofts to three-bedroom residences across three buildings. We aim to break ground in the next 60 to 90 days. Across the street will be a multi-level public parking garage with more than 300 spaces, supporting The Linc and better serving activity in the area. Across the street from the garage will be another mixed-use development building with more than 35,000 sq. ft. across four stories. This will be designed to house retail and professional service businesses and will kick off after the completion of the garage project.”
“We’re also excited about the opening of Journeyman Distillery. This regional destination transforms an old manufacturing facility into a truly multipurpose venue that will house a distillery, brewery, barrel storage, restaurant, and event space run by a local businessman with a similar site in Michigan. Complementing Journeyman, will be the Grand Gardner Hotel, converting a historic school into a beautiful boutique hotel with 55 beds, a speakeasy, and a meeting place. We look to see this project break ground sometime in 2023.”
Nuppnau adds, “To serve our community, we have introduced a multifaceted Valpo for All Generations initiative, which will be completed in stages. First, we are creating a brand-new, next-generation skatepark on the north side of town. To serve our fast-growing senior population, we’ve introduced an Adult Centre for Enrichment or ACE, which will provide a vibrant location for people over the age of 50 to gather, learn, and socialize. To further serve the community, we’re introducing the versatile Valpo Sports & Recreation Campus with multi-use fields, spaces to gather and to enjoy nature. The final facet of this initiative is a program to enhance and preserve our beloved legacy parks for generations to come.”
The City of Valparaiso is grateful to the community, industry, and government partners for their continued support of Valpo’s growth, including Valparaiso University, Ivy Tech, the Indiana Department of Transport and Regional Development Authority, Valpo Redevelopment Commission, Valpo Parks, Valpo Chamber, RQAW Architecture and Engineering, local contractors Tonn & Blank and Ratio, and the surrounding counties of LaPorte, Starke, Jasper, Lake, Cook, and Berrien.
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AT A GLANCE
What: City in Indiana’s Northwest featuring steady growth in population, recreation, infrastructure, and economic development
Where: The City of Valparaiso is located in Indiana, United States
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