Residents Share Ideas for Future of Valpo

The second of three initial ‘Big Idea’ workshops as part of the Valpo Next project took place Tuesday at Grace Chapel with several ideas being tossed out by the 100 or so involved residents in attendance.

“We are looking for all kinds of ideas and plans, as this will be a year-long process,” said Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas, who opened the session by thanking the residents for their input in the process to plan the city’s future.

“This is a chance to dream about the future,” added Matt Evans, who is a co-chair of the Valparaiso Steering Committee, the initial force behind Valpo Next and the group responsible for hiring Planning Next, a Columbus, Ohio-based group dedicated to moving communities forward.

“This is a good vibe,” said Jamie Greene, principal for Planning Next. “I like the turnout today and hopefully we can have more in attendance tomorrow night (for the third workshop in as many days).”

Planning Next helps in getting the public involved in the process by organizing the structure of meetings such as this.

Several groups of seven people met with facilitators who helped them organize their ideas and come to a census of what participants truly would like to see come to fruition.

A headline exercise was conducted with the question, “What will be the headline for a newspaper story about Valparaiso in 2034?” The question generated several positive responses, which included, “Valpo Next has become Valpo Now: South Shore Comes to Valpo,” “Valpo Schools are best in state for 10th straight year” and “Valparaiso named most desirable city in Midwest.”

Ideas thrown out by the event’s participants included a need for a vibrant arts community, increased transportation to hospitals and libraries, the addition of more attractive downtown lodging and taking the Valpo schools from “good to great.”

“I’m very impressed with this,” said lifelong Valparaiso resident Frances Saar, who attended Monday night’s workshop as well. “It’s nice to be asked to participate in the future of our city. Now that I’m retired, I can focus on things like this.”

Evans said he was pleased with the turnout, but hopes even more will take part in Wednesday’s session set for 7 p.m. at Valparaiso High School.

“We really hope that since that is at the high school, the youth will come out and allow their voices to be heard,” he said. “We know they have opinions about what Valparaiso needs, and this is a perfect time to have them heard.”