A ‘River’ Runs Through It

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Published on August 04, 2010 with No Comments

Riverfront Development bringing fine dining, fun to Chesterton
by Krystal Vivian          

The new Riverfront Development in Chesterton aims to bring in new businesses and jobs to the community in order to create a fun environment for residents and tourists alike.

It all began with the opening of Lucrezia’s 12 years ago in Chesterton’s downtown district.  Nada Karas and her husband had moved to Chesterton for new jobs, but had found that the fine dining establishments they were previously used to were not present there then.  They would travel to Valparaiso, Miller, or Michigan City, but, even then, al fresco dining was uncommon. 

“There really wasn’t a great place where you could have a bowl of pasta and a nice glass of wine and kick back.  There was definitely not any al fresco dining.  We missed that,” Karas said.

A year later, Karas and her husband both found they were unhappy in the jobs they had moved to Chesterton for, but they stumbled upon a property in Chesterton that was on the market and became inspired.

“The owner said ‘I wish somebody would do a restaurant in here’, and the lightbulb went off in my husband’s head, because he was already thinking that someday he wanted to do that,” Karas said.  “The stars had aligned, and we decided to make it happen.  It was just a leap of faith.”

Though many banks did not feel that a fine dining restaurant in Chesterton would survive, Karas and her husband did not give up hope.  They both felt that Chesterton needed just such an establishment, and they could provide that successfully with a mix of quality food and service.  They opened up their restaurant and found that the people in Chesterton were hungry for upscale dining, as they were inundated with business. Cars lined up and down the parking lot filled, with hungry customers wanting to eat at Lucrezia’s. 

Business has thrivedl ever since,  so well that Karas has been one of the many people who have been  driving forces behind the Riverfront Development. 

The development was created in order to create a fine dining district in Chesterton to help attract more people to the area, both residents and tourists.  In order to get the liquor licenses needed, the law set by the state statute said that there needed to be a body of navigable water and a set district boundary for it to be designated a fine dining district.  With Coffee Creek set as the river, the Riverfront Development was born and was approved by Frank Guthrie, commissioner of the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission.

“It was a relatively painless process,” said Heather Ennis, executive director of the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce.

The town council passed a resolution on it, as well, and spoke favorably of the entire project, accepting the boundaries set by Ennis and the team of people working on the Development. 

“We set the boundaries wide enough so that then many people could participate and create restaurants.  It’s not just downtown.  The boundaries go beyond that,” Ennis said.

The Riverfront Development is just starting, but it’s leading to a bright future of Chesterton, in hopes of having it bustle with businesses and life.

“Our long-range goal is to attract people to our community.   The more we have to offer, the more people that will come,” Ennis said.

Ideally, the more restaurants there are in the area will lead to more people returning to the area to visit other dining establishments, which is why Karas has been very supportive of the Riverfront Development.

For instance, if a group of people come to dine at Lucrezia’s on a Friday night, but the wait is an hour or longer just to get to a table, they can choose to visit another establishment such as the Octave Grille, a new gourmet burger joint, where the wait time may be less.  Or, they might see the multiple restaurants and shopping areas in the Riverfront Development area and want to come back to try Popolano’s for dinner or for a deli lunch.  

With extra traffic being directed into the area, Ennis and Karas hope that shops will stay open later to give visitors something to do before or after dinner.  

“It will create an atmosphere that is extremely friendly for people to come and they are not reliant on (just) one thing,” Ennis said.  “We [want to] get people into the community to see how wonderful it is, to see how charming it is, and, really, there is a lot to offer here.”

Karas and Ennis both hope that people will start coming to Chesterton and see all of the great things the city has to offer while they are visit the Riverfront Development area.  On Saturday afternoons, the European Market is held in Chesterton.  The beach is two miles away down State Route 49, though many people aren’t aware that Lake Michigan is so close to Chesterton.   Ground was just broken on the new hospital in nearby Liberty Township, and soon there will be a St. Anthony’s Professional Medical building in town, as well. 

“All of these things are a collaborative effort,” Ennis said. 

Karas and Ennis both are very excited to see what lies in store for Chesterton.

“We’re very passionate about this town and we get very excited talking about it,” Karas said.

For more information about the Riverfront Development, or to learn how your fine dining or retail business dreams could become a reality in Chesterton, call Heather Ennis at the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce, 926-5513.

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