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Howard board discusses possible development for Village Center

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

HOWARD – A proposal on how to develop the public space of the Village Center, modeled after an existing facility in Valparaiso, Indiana, was presented Monday, Feb. 25, to the Howard village board.

Village Administrator Paul Evert noted staff began working with architects in 2016 on a facility in the Village Center that could serve as a skating rink in the winter and host events like farmers markets, food festivals, movies and music the rest of the year.

After not coming up with a concept that was right for the community in Howard, Evert said staff found the William E. Urschel Pavilion and Central Park Plaza in Valparaiso, where the facility consists of an open-sided pavilion that houses an artificially cooled skating rink in the winter, while roller skating, farmers markets and festivals are held there from spring through summer.

Evert said an adjacent building provides skate rental, activity space, concessions and restrooms along with housing the Zamboni and chiller for the ice.

He also noted an adjacent green space includes a stage and splash pad.

After village staff toured that facility, Evert said the same architect involved in that project, Victor Ritter of Shive-Hattery, was asked to create a similar facility for Howard in the public area of the Village Center.

Ritter, who was on hand to present the site plan concept to the board members for their feedback, said the project “has the opportunity to be transformational in a community” like what happened in Valparaiso.

“In looking at how we would tailor a project like that for your village, we developed a conceptual site plan that took all of those pieces and tailored them to your particular site,” Ritter said.

Located to the east of the Howard Commons apartment complex, the plan places the activities building on the west of the site, adjacent to the pavilion in the center, where a splash pad would also be located, and the amphitheater with lawn area and a stage off to the east.

“It’s important for the activities building to be very close to the pavilion, because the lobby allows parents to be inside and be warm, if they want to watch their kids skating,” Ritter said. “So these two buildings are very close to each other, plus skate rentals and use of the facilities inside, these two need to be very close.”

Village President Burt McIntyre, who noted he visited the facility in Valparaiso, said it’s important for a municipality to have a facility that is multi-use to generate revenue throughout the year.

Ritter said the amount of people who use that facility for ice skating exceeded expectations, while events are there almost every weekend throughout the year as a “collector place for people and activities.”

Trustee Ray Suennen said he was “very impressed” after visiting the facility in Valparaiso, and asked how the one proposed for Howard would compare in size.

Ritter said the pavilion as proposed for Howard would be slightly larger to have extra room on the sides of the rink for people to be inside and have rolling doors on the long sides to block the wind, though the size of the ice rink would be about the same – half the size of a regulation hockey rink.

The pavilion is Valparaiso is listed as being 12,000 square feet.

When board members asked about possible noise with the facility being next to Howard Commons, Evert said the village could regulate that, such as with controlling the hours and volume, because the village would own the facility.

“This is going to be a public space,” Evert said. “We’re going to have a lot of activity, and that’s really why they want to live there.”

Trustee Cathy Hughes, who noted there was a need for a facility like that, raised concerns about the effect noise from the facility could have on neighborhoods that are already established in the area.

“Even though we’ll apparently have a cutoff as to what time (activities could take place), just from my experience, I think there’s going to be an issue,” Hughes said. “But I do like the building. I think it’s very nice.”

Ritter said the public bathrooms in the activities building could be used at times when the rest of that building would be locked the public.

Trustee Craig McAllister asked Evert about financial numbers, such as how the facility would generate enough revenue to cover its own costs, how the facility would pay for itself and staffing.

“The concept and the design is very neat, but the next thing that we would need to know to make it come to life is numbers,” McAllister said.

Evert said the family the facility in Valparaiso is named after “gave a lot of money” for it to be built, along with naming rights being sold and a major business donation.

“It’s obviously expensive,” Evert said. “You can’t expect to spent this kind of money and then have it make its own way.”

Following his presentation before the board, Ritter said the facility in Valparaiso was built in stages and cost around $10.5 million, funded by both private donations and the city.

Trustee Chris Nielsen said he liked the concept of the facility, which could be used for a variety of things and be “a destination for the village of Howard.”

McIntyre said a “lot more discussion” would be taking place about the proposed facility.

“This is stage one, and I appreciate your input,” McIntyre said.

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