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VALPARAISO: Vibrant and Visionary

City of Valparaiso (Pop. 31,730)   
July 2014

The city of Valparaiso was one of three recipients of the 2013 Primacy of Place Community Awards given through Ball State University’s Primacy of Place Initiative.

In 2012, the city of Valparaiso unveiled a life-size bronze statue of Orville Redenbacher, the iconic popcorn entrepreneur who established his company in the northwest Indiana city in 1951. The statue, commissioned by the Valparaiso Art Advisory Committee and funded through the generosity of private donors, is now the most photographed citizen of Valparaiso and even has its own Twitter following.       


Video: Mayor Jon Costas on Valparaiso's excellent commitment to placemaking within their community.
The statue has come to serve as Valparaiso’s ambassador of the city’s efforts to continue the revitalization of its downtown area, integrate the arts throughout the community, and promote creativity and healthy living.   

Valparaiso’s motto of being “vibrant and visionary” is easily seen in its downtown area, which has enjoyed new life through several successful initiatives. Through more than $50 million in grants secured with help from the Redevelopment Commission, the city has redeveloped a five-block downtown area and two key corridors leading into the city, primarily through refurbishing existing structures and infrastructure improvements. Popular events such as the Farmer’s Market and annual Popcorn Festival take place in Central Park Plaza, which opened in 2011 and features an amphitheater and splash-pad water play area.  On the first Thursday of each month, several restaurants participate in “Eat Up, Wine Down” by offering $5 selections so residents and visitors can try a variety of tasty food and drinks at affordable prices. Building on the success of Central Park Plaza, construction is planned to commence this fall on an adjacent ice rink pavilion and public plaza to further enhance year-round opportunities in the downtown area.

“We like the idea that Valparaiso has become a destination for people to come for dinner, to enjoy our parks, and to do business. We wanted to build on that with art,” said Laura Campbell, Vice President of the Redevelopment Commission and chairperson of the Art Committee. The committee has overseen the implementation of several public art projects, including the Valparaiso Art Walk at Cumberland, a free outdoor sculpture exhibit near the Cumberland Crossing redevelopment project. In partnership with Valparaiso Community Schools, the committee also launched a competition among elementary school students to decorate the city’s new bike lockers. Students were challenged by their art teachers to paint or draw a community landmark in a particular art style, and the selected artworks were reproduced and can be seen on lockers throughout the city.   

The city is also committed to helping its residents improve body, mind, character and community through its “Fit City” initiative.  Individuals can take advantage of programming that promotes healthy and active living, and the city has dedicated resources to preserve acres of parkland for nature parks, hike and bike trails, organized sports and other recreation.    

Public and private partnerships are the key to Valparaiso’s current and future successes.  The city has created “Envision Valparaiso 2030,” a framework for guiding future development, redevelopment, and community enhancement over the next 20 years. The purpose of this plan is to establish a vision, along with realistic goals and achievable strategies, that residents, business and land owners, major institutions, civic groups, members of advisory committees, and public officials prefer – and will support with action – in the years ahead.   

For more information about Valparaiso’s placemaking efforts, contact Kimberly Franklin, Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission. Additional best practice resources can be found on Ball State’s Primacy of Place website



10 in 10 weeks Valparaiso
This post was a part of Ball State’s 2014 “Ten Communities in Ten Weeks” series highlighting ten Indiana cities and towns that are committed to promoting quality of life for their residents, businesses and visitors.   

Through its Primacy of Place initiative, Ball State University is committed to helping Indiana communities that desire to strengthen their local economies by putting human interests at the center of economic development.  

Follow us on Twitter @BallStateBBC, share your own placemaking projects at placemaking@bsu.edu, and sign up for our bi-monthly Primacy of Place Updates.