We all know how great the city of Valparaiso is when it comes to good food, great schools, diverse shopping centers, and beautiful, accessible parks.
Yet, we at Valpolife.com were curious. What could we add to this city to make it better? What do we need that will engage our kids more with the outdoors or what will help influence people to make healthier decisions?
The input compiled came from beyond what our city officials are planning or what is going on in city meetings, and instead are the fun and creative opinions from people living day to day in the city.
The post went live on Facebook Friday, Jan. 13 and by today there are more than 1,000 comments!. The mass of comments posted were then commented on by others, and the thread kept growing. Amongst the few off the wall ones – a summer snow cone stand, a kids Ninja Warrior Gym? – the comments were positive, legit suggestions on how we can make Valpo a better place to live.
We picked some of the most common suggestions regarding food options, shopping, infrastructure, and new activities.
When it came to food and restaurant ideas the overall winner was a Sonic chain. The desire for those Sonic frozen drinks, burgers, and fries outweighed all other choices. The closest chain is in South Bend, and many Valpo residents would like to see this fast food frenzy appear in the city.
For other suggestions: Karen Koznicki-Knezic wants an Indian restaurant, and Stacy Beard Rutkowski would like to see a Korean restaurant. Rhiannon Roesler Alobeid suggested a Thai restaurant. Sandy Burke suggested some higher end chain restaurants, and Rebecca Baronie said she wanted a Carrabba’s Italian Grill or Bravo Italiana.
Other commenters desired more non-meat and dairy choices. “A good vegetarian restaurant, not just somewhere with a few vegetarian choices either,” Leslie Cefali said.
In addition to new dining choices, the 21-and-over crowd would like to see a variety in the night scene.
Zach Hall said he would like a Brazilian Steakhouse, like the old gaucho’s restaurant, and then head to a bar for after dinner drinks. “I like the non-smoking suggestion. A piano bar would be fun too.”
“I agree with the non-smoking bars,” Corinne Brant Turner added. “I moved from Indy and the entire city is smoke-free.”
Brent Howard said a nice non-smoking bar with a dress code would be a nice addition. “Something classy and not trashy.”
On the opposite side of dining out, the residents of Valpo wish for more grocery store options. The winning suggestion? Trader Joe’s, which added enough comments to convince the store to pick up and relocate tomorrow:
Summarizing everyone’s thoughts was the enthusiastic Isabel Tavaras: “YES. Trader Joe’s!”
Lara Wold added in with the suggestion: “Whole Foods! Whole Foods! Whole Foods!” While, Jennifer Zust Beauchamp added in, “Meijer, Costco, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods.” She also added in getting an Olive Garden, because “never going to go to Merrillville or that massive headache in Highland would be famous.”
What we enjoyed most about this Facebook post were how the suggestions of these high-end grocery chains sparked another conversation on how Valpo is already supplying these types of options.
What Jennifer Eldridge Marinangeli reminded or informed her fellow citizens was about The Wholesome Cupboard. “They have a ton of the same products and more.”
“We also have two great health food stores, Sunrise health Foods and Natures Plus,” ATess Mangold said. “We need to support our locally owned businesses.”
The huge, positive response to the massive remodel and re-launch of Strack & Van Til on U.S. 30 is evidence that the city is making great improvements to the already established businesses to provide better services for the community.
So, we have a Sonic and a Trader Joe’s on the possible horizon, what should we add for people to stay active?
Dawn Noel Fitzer Brown: “A Valparaiso Aquatic Center…indoor and outdoor pool…year-round water activities for ALL ages.” She was one of many, many commenters pushing for a public pool.
Matthew Kolodziej agreed an “Indoor and outdoor public pool would be nice” and Leo Fray took the pool idea one step further. “An aquatic center (indoor/outdoor) with multiuser capability (public, high school, college).”
We heard from many, that people also want to see the Pines Ski Lodge taken over and either be re-established or refurbished into something new.
“Ski hill!” Denise Charlene exclaimed on the post. “Somebody please get the Pines ski hills up and running again!”
Other sports and health-like suggestions included: A Planet Fitness, more cycling and pedestrian walkways on the roads, a new skate park, and a rock climbing wall.
When it came to improvements on the city as is, the comments included Jennifer Wright who said, “More public transportation. There are too many working seniors and car-less younger folks with jobs who need safe transportation, especially into the winter months.”
All in all, the Valpo residents Do not want to see any more round-a-bouts, but they do want to see more safe ways to travel via bike or foot downtown and along U.S. 30, and more handicap parking spaces along Lincolnway.
This post was a combination of opinions coming from women and men, of ages all across the spectrum, and of different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. As Eric Zosso pointed out, “I think we need more ways for different groups of people to mix together. It would be great to have more ways for our wise boomers and energetic millennials to meet together on different community projects. Or it would be cool to have a way for families or young professionals to meet together to work on our schools.”
Like this Facebook post, we need to work together to make the City of Valparaiso a safer, healthier, and happier place to live. Just look at the 620-plus comments, Valpo residents are ready for some changes!
“All in all, we have an incredibly community. It’s awesome being here!” Zosso said.