Valparaiso's Central Park Plaza Recognized as One of the Nation's Best Public Spaces

The city’s Central Park Plaza has been recognized as one of the nation’s best public spaces by the American Planning Association.

The park on October 3, 2016 was named one of five Great Public Spaces on the organization’s list of Great Places in America.

The park on Lincolnway and bisected by Lafayette Street, is joined by Golden Hart Plaza in Fairbanks, Alaska; Findlay Market in Cincinnati, Ohio; Guthrie Green in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. 

“The award is of great importance and highlights an asset in Northwest Indiana and gets us in the national spotlight,” said Taylor Wegrzyn, Valparaiso’s assistant city planner. “It speaks a lot to our local planning efforts.”

Central Park Plaza, which includes the Porter Health Amphitheater and the popular Orville Redenbacher statue, sits on the site formerly occupied by a parking lot and shuttered former department store. Urschel Pavilion, across Lafayette Street to the west, occupies a space that used to be a Social Security office and before that a grocery store.

Planning for the park started about 2008, Wegrzyn said. Central Park Plaza opened in 2011. The Urschel Pavilion opened in 2015.

The award is designed to represent and recognize the gold standard of public places designed to improve the quality of life and promote opportunities of lasting value, said Roberta Rewers, senior communications coordinator for the Chicago-based APA.

Since launching the Great Places in America program in 2007, APA has recognized 260 neighborhoods, streets, and public spaces.

As part of National Community Planning Month, APA’s Great Places in America program has recognized streets, neighborhoods and public spaces in the country the demonstrate character, quality, and planning that enrich communities and facilitate economic growth, Rewers said.

“Public spaces are essential as gathering places and recreational venues in our communities, and designing them to be innovative, multifunctional, and culturally beneficial requires thoughtful collaboration and planning,” said Carol Rhea, FAICP, president of APA, in a press release. “The Great Public Spaces of 2016 illustrate how to effectively create spaces that enhance the lives of residents and visitors alike, and we commend them on this tremendous achievement.”

Source: Northwest Indiana Times