On Tuesday, the American Planning Association (APA) honored Central Park Plaza in Valparaiso as one of five Great Public Spaces on the organization’s annual Great Places in America list. The Great Neighborhoods, Great Streets, and Great Public Spaces of 2016 are places that are unique and exemplary in their amenities and infrastructure, cultural identity, and use of sustainable and innovative practices.
“In putting this project together, it was a collaboration between lots of folks,” said John Seibert, Director of Valpo Parks. “As with any great endeavor in this community, whether it’s public works or non-profit work, it takes the private and public sector coming together.”
“If you build it they will come and if you have a beautiful place that will happen,” Seibert said. “In this vision of having a place that will serve our community, and serve as a magnet for downtown, we’re serving over 200,000 people so far in this great space. Ultimately it’s about serving our community and thanks to our citizens for supporting this and encouraging us to make things better all of the time.”
The American Planning Association provides leadership in the development of vital communities by advocating excellence in planning, promoting education and citizen empowerment. Wendy Moeller is a member of the APA’s Board of Directors and spoke briefly about what it means to be selected as one of APA’s ‘Great Places.’
“I’m really honored to be here today in Valparaiso to recognize a place that is clearly very special to the community,” Moeller said. “Great Places is the American Planning Association’s flagship program that honors places of exemplary character, quality and planning. Great Places are selected annually and represent the gold standard of community involvement.”
Since 2007, APA has designated 250 neighborhoods, streets and public places across 50 states. Nominations are received from a variety of sources including the public and elected officials which are then put through a rigorous review process conducted by a committee of leaders from the APA.
“Central Park Plaza is the cornerstone of the Valparaiso community,” said Bob Thompson, Immediate Past President of the APA Indiana Chapter.
“Whether it’s day or night, the space is always bustling with families, programs and events of all kinds,” said Thompson. “It’s a vibrant community gathering space for a variety of functions. What first drew APA to Central Park Plaza was its creative use of public space.”
As Valparaiso’s downtown began to thrive, city planners noticed an abundance of unused space and parking, and that a public space was just what the city needed.
More than 50 corporate and individual partners combined to donate nearly $4 million, which was added to a contribution provided by the city’s Redevelopment Commission, and Central Park Plaza officially opened in the summer of 2011.
One major partner was Porter Health Care System whose contribution helped in creating the outdoor amphitheater.
“I think this is an amazing part of who we are in Valparaiso,” said Porter Health Care System CEO, Steve Lunn when talking about the city’s Central Park Plaza.
“It takes a lot of work and a lot of folks,” Lunn said. “On behalf of Porter, obviously, anything that we can do to support the health and wellness of our community we’re all for. Between the market here, the splash pad and the ice skating rink, we’re just thrilled to see that people are active, healthy and, most importantly, happy so congratulations to the city of Valparaiso. What a wonderful job!”