Future of Burns Harbor explored

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BURNS HARBOR | Dozens of residents, business owners and officials packed Duneland Falls Banquet and Meeting Center to learn about Burns Harbor’s long-term development plan.

The group at the town’s Redevelopment Commission meeting was so large that presenter Max Reim, joked about it.

“This was supposed to be a fireside chat with a dozen people … This will be the first of many, many meetings,” Reim said Thursday night.

Reim is a co-managing partner and principal with LiveWorkLearnPlay, the Canadian-based company hired by the Redevelopment Commission in February to assist in developing a master plan for the town.

Reim and two others with his company spoke for more than an hour, focusing on the positive attributes of Burns Harbor and ending the presentation with the idea of setting up a district strategy for the community of some 1,400 residents.

Those proposed districts include iconic Main Street USA, which would be the heart of the community, as well as lake village, civic, eco, living room/trail creek, and Indiana makers and workshop districts.

“The first question asked of us is can Burns Harbor be a great town, a great town to raise a family and to work and really be a special small town of America?” Reim asked.

Reim said his company assists with the redevelopment and revitalization of communities, large and small, and even countries around the world.

“We’re your team; we’re part of your community now,” Reim said.

Reim explained his team has been gathering statistical information from adjoining communities as well as getting input from local residents and leaders during the last few months.

One of the most positive things about Burns Harbor is the fact that millions of people travel through it or by it on account of the big attraction of the nearby Indiana Dunes.

“This is an economy to start capturing,” Reim said.

Jill Merriman, a project analyst for LiveWorkLearnPlay, said those she spoke to indicate they want more things to do in Burns Harbor such as places to dine and places to get fit.

Demographics show the community would be suited for smaller retail businesses such as a yogurt shop or a place to take yoga classes.

Out-patient health care facilities, non-traditional learning centers and complementary light industrial businesses are all possibilities as well, Merriman said.

The community also seems to have an identity problem since one person interviewed in Valparaiso saw Burns Harbor as just an exit sign off the interstate, Reim said.

That’s also an issue that will need to be addressed.

“You’re not good about bragging about yourself. …The vision is important for Burns Harbor then once you have the vision you have to set guiding principles,” Reim said.

Reim said the plans outlined for Burns Harbor’s future development won’t happen by magic but will need everyone in the community to get involved.

“You’re all invited to roll up your sleeves and make it happen,” Reim said.

Joseph Rurode, the town’s redevelopment director, said information from the presentation will be placed on the town’s website in the next few weeks so everyone will have the opportunity to view it.

Builders Sarah and Wilbur Oudman see the outlined plans as a logical approach and a place to start.

Both had worked in Burns Harbor for close to six years before moving to the community six months ago.

“We’ve always thought there’s lots of potential in the community,” Sarah Oudman said.