Last week, La Porte was home to a professional team from the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture Housing and Community Regeneration Initiative as they conducted a charrette, a weeklong collaborative, in-depth design process, looking at housing, preservation, transportation, and parking within the downtown area of the City. Final presentations took place on the evening of Thursday, May 25, at St. Peter’s Catholic School, and Marianne Cusato, director of the Initiative, empowered those in attendance.
“You get to determine what your community is. You get to choose what La Porte is today, and in the future,” Cusato said.
Healthcare Foundation of La Porte (HFL) and the City of La Porte invited the team from Notre Dame to conduct a charrette as the next step in the HFL City of La Porte Housing Initiative process, following an in-depth housing study completed in 2022.
The partnership began in December, when HFL and Mayor Dermody reached out to Cusato and her team.
HFL President and CEO Maria Fruth said, “HFL and the City of La Porte are very excited and grateful for our partnership with Notre Dame, and the expertise and experience they lend to the HFL City of La Porte Housing Initiative and the La Porte community to help guide our next steps.”
In preparation for the charrette, the Notre Dame team held listening sessions with leaders and community stakeholders throughout the spring of 2023. During the charrette, which was held May 22-25, the team toured downtown, met with additional interest groups, and held public presentations. In total, more than 220 residents, leaders, and stakeholders participated in the charrette process. The team then used the public input and information gathered to spend hours hard at work in the makeshift studio in St. Peter’s Catholic School.
“As it turns out, a half-gymnasium in a Catholic school is the perfect charrette room,” Cusato said, as she expressed gratitude to Father Nate Edquist for the use of the space.
While in La Porte, the team’s goal was, as Cusato put it, to, “...come up with design solutions, policy solutions, and strategies and implementation that allow us to address the critical issues” seen in La Porte and similar communities throughout the Midwest.
Team members presented renderings, photographs, and data-supported ideas for the downtown, with a focus on “regeneration without displacement” and “commonsense preservation.”
Jennifer Griffin, of J Griffin Design LLC, spoke at length about the housing discoveries, potential sites for future units, and current code limitations to the kind of development La Porte’s residents need.
Potential sites of interest presented included the old La Porte Hospital, the field and track behind the La Porte Community School Corporation’s Educational Services Center, and Scott Park.
Preservation regulations, transportation changes, in particular rerouting truck traffic from Lincolnway, and accessible, affordable parking downtown were also presented.
Dean of the School of Architecture Stefanos Polyzoides stressed that, “We want to resist acting for action’s sake,” and instead have a vision. “We will look at how to intervene downtown in a socially responsible, economically responsible, environmentally responsible, culturally responsible way, to make sure that the fabric of the city downtown, which is notable, is maintained and grown.”
Following Thursday’s presentations, the team will refine their work into a final report. The partnership between HFL City of La Porte Housing Initiative and the Notre Dame Housing and Community Regeneration Initiative will continue for years to see this vision come to life.
Cusato opened Thursday’s presentations by asking those in attendance to raise their hands if they grew up in La Porte.
“That is incredible. The number of arms that were just raised says there’s something really special about this place.” Learn more about the HFL City of La Porte Housing Initiative and the Notre Dame Housing and Community Regeneration Initiative.