Growing up in downtown Valparaiso, Mayor Matt Murphy would ride bikes downtown with his friends to catch the latest movies and sip milkshakes from Harvey’s. He has seen the downtown grow immensely since then and, as Mayor, he is leading the charge toward future improvements downtown and throughout the City of Valparaiso.
Murphy aims to build upon the character and history of Valparaiso’s downtown, expanding opportunities for the things people enjoy – places to shop, dine, and live. He wants to make sure Valparaiso is sending signals that it is the City where people want to invest and raise a family, and he believes that starts with the downtown.
“You want to invest as much as you can in your oldest inner urban core. That’s the heart of your community, and it will feed the rest,” Murphy said.
Investing in the downtown starts with revitalizing its historical properties, such as the planned transformation of the former Boys & Girls Club location at the historic Gardner School to become a boutique hotel and event center. Likewise, the Journeyman Distillery project is transforming a formerly abandoned factory into a 140,000-square-foot destination, including a distillery, brewery, whiskey garden, restaurant, and event spaces.
Further downtown development will add both housing and parking. Looking east, The Linc–located at the intersection of Lincolnway and Morgan–will add 121 modern apartment homes and retail space on the ground floor facing Lincolnway. The Lincoln Highway Garage will add hundreds of parking spaces to support the added growth.
“We’re pleased to have Hageman as the developer for The Linc project. We’ve been very impressed with Hageman’s commitment to Valparaiso and their references from other communities. The Linc is Hageman’s first project in Northwest Indiana, and they are dedicated to making it an outstanding one,” Murphy said. “The Linc and Lincoln Highway Garage fit well with the community’s shared priorities. Longtime downtown business owners are also excited about the positive additions and opportunities.”
“When we did the downtown plan studies, one of the things we saw was an opportunity to build our retail environment downtown. It can be tough to do retail downtown because parking is an issue,” Murphy said. “By focusing on thoughtful density and housing downtown, we create a better retail environment. We're already seeing that with St. Paul Square and other recent downtown housing. Those people are shopping and dining downtown all the time.”
The City of Valparaiso is excited to continue supporting its downtown, working with existing businesses, building partnerships, and sparking business through events and places to gather. The downtown park, Central Park Plaza, draws thousands of visitors downtown annually. The new Birds of Paradise sculpture scavenger hunt invites families to search for 10 hidden bird sculptures. The City is also excited to share further plans for projects just south of the courthouse square.
Protecting & Serving
The City of Valparaiso is dedicated to protecting and serving the downtown area and the traditions that come with it, as seen at this year’s Popcorn Festival. To welcome tens of thousands of attendees, the Valparaiso Police Department ensured safety was a priority, bringing the entire department together and even partnering with other local departments to ensure a safe and festive celebration. Valparaiso makes safety an ongoing priority, upgrading training and equipment regularly.
“We’ve recently replaced every piece of fire safety apparatus since 2016 and continue to fully support our Police and Fire teams,” Murphy said.
Valparaiso is also committed to providing quality services at a competitive cost. To accomplish this, the City has consolidated its Utilities and Public Works departments into a unified Valparaiso City Services department, streamlining services and aligning customer service to a single phone number while allowing for shared uses of equipment and operations.
Further, the City is currently wrapping up an impressive infrastructure improvement season, resurfacing its original water tower at Tower Park, and completing a $5.6 paving million program that includes a combination of resurfacing, new sidewalks, and pathways as well as roadway life-extending strategies like crack sealing and patching.
“We’re also adding safety improvements like radar-controlled speed signs, speed tables, and flashing crossings,” Murphy said.
Mayor’s Youth Council
The City of Valparaiso truly values civic engagement. Last year, Murphy led the creation of the Mayor’s Youth Council to further inspire the next generation to learn about The City government and become more engaged. The Mayor’s Youth Council is in its second year, with 16 students involved this year.
“We want to proactively engage the youth and get them involved in learning about The City, maybe sparking an interest in one day serving on a board, on a commission, or with a non-profit,” Murphy said.
Parks and Recreation
The City of Valparaiso is also committed to supporting all generations with opportunities to gather and participate. The City has just unveiled drawings and plans for the new 248-acre Sports & Recreation Campus, located just east of Route 49. The new facility will include multi-use sports fields to accommodate varied interests. Not only will the space be flexible for many uses, but lights and turf will extend the seasonal use. In addition to the fields, the facility will include concessions and areas to gather, nature trails, and even pickleball courts, among other amenities.
“The new Sports & Rec Campus will allow us to expand our offerings and fill long-time wishes throughout the City,” Murphy said.
Home Team Valpo
Murphy is also interested in preserving neighborhoods. The recent Valpo for All Generations initiative includes an emphasis on maintaining and enhancing the City’s neighborhood legacy parks. Murphy is proud to introduce a nonprofit organization, Home Team Valpo, which helps residents make their homes safer, more comfortable, and more energy efficient. Residents who may qualify for assistance and those who wish to assist them may learn more at HomeTeamValpo.org.
Quality of Life
The City of Valparaiso’s focus on development results in a rich variety of opportunities for locals and visitors to engage with the community. Director of Community Engagement Maggie Clifton shared that while she moved here for her job, she is here to stay because of the resources and opportunities.
“Everything is close. You could bike anywhere. There's plenty to do with all the downtown events,” Clifton said. “Growing up in the suburbs in Central Indiana, I was missing some of the historical charms that Valpo has to offer, so I love having the downtown and all the other perks.”
Over the past 10 years, Murphy has seen the City grow substantially and sees no signs of stopping.
“I feel that we are the star of Northwest Indiana. We have so much to offer between the quality of life, education, safety, and so much more,” Murphy said.