On The Boards | Site Engineering & Surveying at the New Valpo Skate Park – Valparaiso, Indiana

Rendering of the upcoming Flounder & Friends Skatepark in Valparaiso, Indiana. Site engineering and surveying provided by Abonmarche.

What does a community skatepark look like today?

Valparaiso, Indiana is reimagining what’s possible as it brings a modern skatepark experience to a new generation of skate enthusiasts — and a new community gathering place for residents and visitors to enjoy as the city of Valparaiso continues to thrive and expand.

Our team in Valparaiso has served as the engineering force supporting the project, and we’re excited to share that the site’s stormwater improvements kicked off earlier this spring.

This new skate park is such a fantastic development project to be a part of,” notes Matt Keiser, engineering project manager at Abonmarche. “The experience of moving through the process of designing the necessary stormwater improvements and site surveying – it’s extremely rewarding to know that our engineering work beneath this new park is what supports all of the action going on above ground.”

A formal groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, April 18, kicked off new phases of the project and unveiled the new skatepark’s name – Flounder & Friends Skatepark.

“With purpose, this park will welcome people with adaptive needs, with purpose this park will welcome people of all ages and skill levels, and with purpose this park will welcome residents and friends of Valparaiso,” said Kevin Nuppnau, assistant director of Valpo Parks, during the ceremony. “We’re not just saying it, we are building it, and it starts today.”

Members of the community of Valparaiso and project team members broke ground at the site of the upcoming state-of-the-art Flounder & Friends Skatepark in Valparaiso, Indiana.
Abonmarche project team members Lara Brown, Matt Keiser, and Tara Boyanski helped kick off new phases of the skatepark.

Flounder Skatepark — A New Community Experience

As in every community redevelopment project, the City of Valparaiso hosted an in-depth community engagement effort to understand what people wanted from a new skatepark experience, what was important to them in the park’s features and location, and how the park might bring residents and visitors together in a way that most skateparks fail to do. To maintain the project’s vision and ensure the skatepark becomes a reality, a task force was established among the design and engineering teams, Valpo Parks, and local skate enthusiasts.

In contracting a designer for the new skatepark, the City of Valparaiso reached out to Valparaiso native and X Games Course Design Dug Ketterman, of DugOut Design Studio. Ketterman, a venerated skate park and course designer who has designed some of the world’s most beloved skate experiences, has a special connection to his hometown’s original skatepark.

As a 16-year-old in the mid-1990s, Dug and his friends came to the city of Valparaiso to find a way to design a place to skate. They helped the city design and construct the skatepark, piece by piece. The finished design was named Flounder Skatepark in honor of Dug’s friend Ray “Flounder” Wampler, who was killed in a car accident on his way to school one morning. The first Flounder Skatepark stood from 1998 until 2020, when it closed due to its level of disrepair and unsafe conditions.

Valparaiso reconnected with Ketterman after 20 years to lead the design of a new park in a better location. Once built, the new skatepark will again carry the Flounder name — and will inject the same passion that Valparaiso area skaters bring to their art.

Nestled in the Heart of Valparaiso

To host the site of its new skatepark experience, Valparaiso and its design partners conducted a thorough site review and analysis—eventually selecting a section of its existing Fairgrounds Park. This was a significant departure from the old skatepark location, which was nestled deep into a 122-acre hiking park on the city’s north side; in contrast, the new location, in the center of town and along one of the city’s main thorough-fares, was chosen for its visibility and walkability within the community.

As part of Fairgrounds Park, the new skatepark will be enveloped by a 3/4 mile walking track and situated adjacent to 4 softball fields, a playground, a community pavilion, and a Life Trails System, designed to help adults ages 50+ with functional fitness.

Valparaiso’s park and recreation options are ideal; with more than 700 acres of parkland spread across 17 parks, 27 athletic fields, 14 children’s playgrounds, and two golf courses, people in every corner of the city have a unique park experience to call their own.

With the old skatepark in disrepair, the decision to design a new one came with new opportunities: to create an accessible state-of-the-art skatepark and to shape a citywide gathering place for people from all walks of life.

Abonmarche’s Lara Brown, Tara Boyanski, and Matt Keiser attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Flounder & Friends Skatepark in Valparaiso, Indiana. The project is engineered by Abonmarche.

A Modern Skate Experience for All

During an extensive community engagement effort, the design team identified the community’s top desires, then created a design that could be implemented in phases as funding becomes available.

The new skatepark will feature spaces for skateboards, bikes, scooters, and skates — with an emphasis on user-friendliness for many ages and abilities, including beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. Future phases of the skatepark design will feature a dedicated beginners area along with adaptive features for athletes in wheelchairs.

Ketterman’s design inspiration is “centered around the Golden Spiral, providing a harmonious aesthetic while encouraging growth and inclusivity around the world. We have designed a park that not only meets the needs of the community, but also redefines what is possible…”.

Space to Gather

Flounder Skatepark’s holistic design will reach beyond the city of Valparaiso to become a regional hub for the skating community — creating space for people of many interests, ages, abilities and locations to gather — to have fun, to be active, to learn, and to share in both failure and success. Building a skatepark as a space that will nurture the community of Valparaiso will spread benefits to many other communities across northern Indiana and beyond.

Design: DugOut Design Studios

Site Engineering & Surveying: Abonmarche

Advocacy: Driftwood Collaborative

The groundbreaking ceremony saw an excellent turnout by Valparaiso community members, sponsors, and other project partners.

Contact Us today to learn more about our practice.

ACEC/Michigan Honors Abonmarche as 2021 Firm of the Year

Benton Harbor, Michigan – Abonmarche is the newest recipient of the prestigious 2021 Firm of the Year Award bestowed annually by the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Michigan.

The award, considered the top honor at ACEC/Michigan’s annual Engineering & Surveying Excellence Awards, seeks to shine a spotlight on an ACEC member firm that excels in community engagement, advancement of the engineering profession, and ACEC involvement.

Abonmarche’s roots in community service run deep. For many years, our firm has served as a leader in supporting communities through active volunteerism and charitable donations. In 2020, our leadership developed Philanthropic and Voluntary PTO programs to support the passions of their staff. Abonmarche employees also enjoy a flexible work-life balance that enables them to accomplish goals outside of work, in addition to their career goals.

Our focus on client service is something we stress every minute of every day,” said Chris Cook, President of Abonmarche. “We have invested heavily in leadership training and in the advancement of each of our staff members’ industry certifications, along with a very successful internal technical staff development program.”

In addition to serving on several ACEC committees and forums, Abonmarche regularly mentors emerging firms. Our staff also often serve as a liaison between ACEC/Michigan, local governments, and several state agencies, helping to establish meaningful connections while advancing ACEC/Michigan goals.

“Thank you to ACEC/Michigan, the member firms who have counseled and advised us, our clients, and our staff, for all of the support you’ve provided us as we’ve grown,” said Cook. “We are proud to serve as an active member of ACEC/Michigan, and we are honored to be selected as the ACEC/Michigan 2021 Firm of the Year.”

ACEC/Michigan presented the 2021 Firm of the Year Award to Abonmarche at its annual Engineering & Surveying Excellence Awards Gala, held virtually Friday, February 26, 2021. For more information regarding the awards submission and selection process, visit www.acecmi.org/engineering–surveying-excellence. To learn more about Abonmarche, visit www.abonmarche.com.

Abonmarche Brings Community Crossings Grant to Northern Indiana

The Community Crossings Matching Grant program is part of Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb’s Next Level Roads program, a 20-year, fully funded plan to enhance Indiana’s highways and local roads by awarding communities grants for shovel-ready local road construction projects.

Over the last five years, Indiana has awarded more than $830 million in matching funds to support local road and bridge projects around Indiana.

Abonmarche has been instrumental in helping several communities secure grant funding for local road projects, and it is our goal to bring this grant and its benefits to more of the Northern Indiana communities we serve – helping cities, towns and counties complete additional projects in their jurisdiction to spur community growth and development.

Projects eligible for funding through Community Crossings include road resurfacing, bridge rehabilitation, road reconstruction, small structure replacements, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance in connection with road projects. Material costs for chip sealing and crack filling operations are also eligible for funds.

While this grant presents great opportunities to Hoosier communities, it also presents many hurdles to those who want to apply.


The grant application and management process can be overwhelming for municipalities of any size, but particularly those communities on the smaller side. Community leaders are trying to balance budgets and staffing limits with the need for supplying added value, community improvements, and future planning.

Each project submitted to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) for funding is carefully evaluated based on need, traffic volume, local support, the impact on connectivity and mobility within the community, and regional economic significance, noted INDOT in a January 2021 news release. The hoops municipalities need to jump through are significant, but hiring a full-service firm like Abonmarche can make grants like Community Crossings attainable.

“We’ve become very well-versed in how the grant works because we started working with it as soon as INDOT released it in 2016 and have continued non-stop every call for projects that has occurred,” says Matt Keiser, Project Manager at Abonmarche Valparaiso. “As the grant and its administration has evolved, we’ve modified our processes to embrace these modifications with our community leaders.  We’ve found that working directly with the Public Works Directors and Clerk-Treasurers, we can properly manage all of the complex moving parts and timeframes involved within the confines of the grant requirements.”


  • Community Crossings is open to all towns, cities, and county government units in the State of Indiana.
  • The Community Crossings grant gives approximately $160 million/year, and there are many communities who have lost out, by being unprepared or unresponsive to the grant deadlines.
  • To be eligible for the Community Crossings grant, a municipality must reassess their roadways every two years and update their Pavement Asset Management Plan every year.
  • Matching funds range from 50 to 75% depending on the size of the community.
  • INDOT calls for Community Crossings projects twice each year.
  • The next call for projects is planned to be in July of 2021.

For smaller entities that don’t have the funds and/or staffing, the Community Crossings Matching Grant can be a huge undertaking to try to accomplish in-house. 

“This grant gives you the ability to bring tangible improvements to your community, while staying focused on all of the day-to-day work involved in keeping your community on track and running smoothly”, Keiser notes. “Working with our firm on this grant can save valuable time and resources, taking the minutiae off the backs of everyone from superintendents to road commissioners and public works staff so that they can focus on their everyday work.”

Because the grant process is so involved for Community Crossings, we have touchpoints with our clients throughout the entire year, keeping them up-to-date on progress, upcoming deadlines, and getting the grant off the ground and running in their project.


Since an INDOT/LTAP approved Pavement Asset Management Plan is required, Abonmarche completes a field assessment of every road segment, utilizing the PASER Rating System. When the assessment is complete, we analyze the results and create a comprehensive Pavement Asset Management Plan, based on the required elements to qualify for the grant.

Abonmarche then can offer assistance in the selection of the projects to be submitted for grant application. After the project list is finalized, our team helps prepares the grant application along with all of the necessary documentation required for submittal.

Once grant funding is awarded, Abonmarche creates the plans, specifications, and bid documents to secure pricing meeting the States requirements for Public purchasing. For many of our clients, we have also provided construction management services for the duration of the projects to ensure the projects are built to the design standards and the grant application.

“Our fees are stable, and our clients know how much our fees will be for their next years of planning,” Keiser says. “There’s a layer of transparency we build into our process that helps these communities plan for the future in a way that they might not otherwise be able to. That element of planning ahead, and knowing which roads need work ahead of time, is invaluable.”

For more information about how Abonmarche can help bring Community Crossings grant funding to your area, contact Matt Keiser at (219) 246-4195 or at mkeiser@abonmarche.com.

A Tech Company Tackles the U.S. Camp Industry | UltraCamp Offices In Niles, Michigan

UltraCamp, a Michigan-based tech company providing camp management software, has been helping camp organizations across the country run better so that their camp staffs can spend more time doing the things they love.

UltraCamp’s origin story begins with its founders fusing their passion for active lifestyles with their knowledge of summer camps into a business that runs the digital side of summer camp operations. Today, the company successfully runs the management software for around 800 camps throughout the United States.

“We help camps do more with less work by giving them the power to track attendance, automate billing tasks through payment plans, create new donor relationships, manage the entire staff application process, streamline the registration process, and much more,” notes the UltraCamp website. “All of this helps directors and managers recover the time they need to focus on what is really important: CAMP.”

After finding its new home base in a building in downtown Niles, Michigan, UltraCamp selected Abonmarche to design the architecture and interiors of the space. Previously occupying part of an old historical post office building, UltraCamp sought to up its square footage to accommodate its full staff, as well as break away from its mundane, uninspired previous digs. In addition to serving their needs on the business side, they wanted to inject their own active lifestyle mindset into a built environment.

“Our role as designers in this project, and in any project, is to extrapolate what our client is feeling, how their culture works – and expand and elevate those feelings into a built environment,” says Arvin Delacruz, Architect, AIA, NCARB, Abonmarche. UltraCamp’s culture was already very defined; it was our job to then articulate that in the built form.”

With an open, progressive, active spirit already in place, UltraCamp tasked the Abonmarche design team with creating a space that:

  • Would be a place of activity. “A rock climbing wall was a must.”
  • Could be used by a variety of age groups. “Their kids, ranging anywhere from toddler to teenage age, often come there.”
  • Have a variety of spaces for both collaborative and focus work
  • Include spaces that were multifunctioning

“They also said that, whatever we design – food was very important to them. The fellowship that comes with gathering around a meal is really engrained in their culture. The staff and their families really enjoy spending time together, and so they wanted their space to reflect and support that.”

UltraCamp seldom has clients come into their physical space, and much of their work has been done remotely in the past. A new workspace would enable everyone to come together into one space. While remote work was certainly effective in running the business, the UltraCamp team wanted an environment that people could come together and collaborate more easily in.

A Layered Workplace Strategy

The new UltraCamp space is split evenly between traditional office workspaces and lifestyle activity spaces for their staff, such as a rock climbing wall, foam ball pit, etc. Across 19,401 square feet of office space, 87% of the workspace is collaboration and/or amenity space, with primary individual workspaces making up the remaining 13%.

Although each staff member has an assigned workstation, there are no private, enclosed offices, and team members are not confined to their workstations.

“The mentality is that your office is the entire building. Even though the formal office square footage is small, the team makes use of the entire space. This project in particular featured a lot of layering of spaces, of blending amenity-focused and work-focused spaces.”

“We were constantly thinking about elevating quality of life, about changing postures throughout the work day, and of all of the physical ramifications that come with being inside a building for a good portion of your day. We were also paying attention to the natural amenities that the building gave us – for example, the incredible natural daylighting running through the space. UltraCamp is a wonderful case study of that.”

In addition to a rock-climbing wall and an underground laser tag facility, Abonmarche outfitted the space with a suspended gerbil tube that both children and adults can crawl through for a playful moment of fun.

“There was this suspended tube, originally meant for underground water storage, in its bright orange natural color that prompted us to look at a lot of materials in a new way. Instead of concealing this element, our design team incorporated it into the overall schematic design.  And beyond that, how do you look at an IT firm in a new way? These were types of questions we were concerned with answering through design.”

The second level opens up to an elevated “living room” space. Beyond is an expansive harvest table and a fully equipped kitchen, for both their own use and for having meals catered there for the staff.

Injecting Active Lifestyle Aesthetics

The UltraCamp space evokes a contemporary, playful aesthetic. The visual texture, furnishings and materials all reflect the invigorating lifestyle they have in place. All of those elements trickle up to how they’re able to create a positive impact for the clients they work with.

“This project was a study in materiality for our team. How do you transform really mundane materials, and elevate them so that they become an expression of design? How do you look at materials in a new way?”

UltraCamp wanted something you could live and be comfortable in, but at the same time show this really high tech world they operate in. It was about striking that balance to say, “This is a forward-thinking company, but one that is also mindful of the psychology of space – and of comfort.”

“We selected very bold colors that aren’t necessarily trendy but that speak to an active lifestyle. Set against a backdrop of neutral white are the bright oranges of the gerbil tube and rock climbing wall, bold blues and bright yellows as accent colors. We also wanted to bring in a natural element, to again connect with that active lifestyle culture. The sliding barn doors are made of recycled wood, and provide that warmer, natural tone.”

Staff and visitors feel equally at home settling down on the couch with a cup of coffee to have a high-level business meeting outside of the boardroom.

Stepping Outside the Box

“This project was especially gratifying because we were allowed to think outside the box. We were not confined to it having it be ‘this way or that way’. We let the space speak to us about how it needed to function, and what it should feel like. It still needed to function properly for the client, and so we paid close attention to creating spaces that the UltraCamp team would really use. We were able to meet the client’s directive – and go beyond that to elevate what they thought was possible.”

In addition to bringing all of UltraCamp’s staff together into one space, the new workspace also serves as a community center for downtown Niles, hosting various gatherings as an integral part of the downtown Niles scene since moving in June 2017. The new UltraCamp offices were a featured project in the Michigan Municipal League, the regional community business consultancy based in Ann Arbor, MI.

“This space was intended as a catalyst for continued growth in other business in Niles. The goal was to have people thinking, ‘If this company can do something like this in Niles, then I can too.'”

“And this is a space where Abonmarche is able to really shine as a firm. The acumen of design is not relegated to region – we’re a mid-sized Michigan/Indiana firm with a lot of powerful ideas that can translate to real community transformation.”

For more information on UltraCamp, visit. www.ultracamp.com.

“‘No Mystery in the History’ Abonmarche Celebrate 40 Years and Its Connection to Benton Harbor” | Herald-Palladium

In celebration of Abonmarche’s 40-year connection to Benton Harbor, the Herald-Palladium published an article chronicling the firm’s legacy. Read the full article at:


Abonmarche “Superheroes” Win 2018 Bed Race Supporting Benton Harbor Support Programs

A team of Abonmarche Superheroes took 1st Place in the Great Bed Race. The team – consisting of Sam Jablonowski (Captain), Mike Morphey, Lucas Grosse, Dan Bomzer, Garrick Garcia, and Jason Thies – went undefeated in their races to take home the trophy. They also walked away with the award for the team with the most spirit!

Proceeds from the Great Bed Race support the Benton Harbor Sunrise Rotary programs and Slumberland 40 Winks Foundation that enrich the lives of families. Besides participation in the event, Abonmarche raised $585.00 through bake sales and raffles, donated to the 40 Winks foundation to provide beds to children in need in our community.

Abonmarche Receives 2018 Community Collaboration Award from South Haven Area Chamber of Commerce

Abonmarche is the recipient of the South Haven Area Chamber of Commerce 2018 Community Collaboration Award. “It’s an honor to be recognized by the Chamber for our involvement and impact in the community” said Chris Cook, President and CEO at Abonmarche. “When Abonmarche works with a local community, we don’t simply look at them as a client but as a partner that we work with to make each other better while improving the community.”

The Community Collaboration Award is in recognition of Abonmarche’s partnership with the City of South Haven, South Haven Township, and South Haven Area Recreation Authority. Headquartered in Benton Harbor, Abonmarche opened an office in South Haven eight years ago. Evidence of Abonmarche’s presence was recognized immediately, especially in assisting in securing millions of dollars of grant money for the community, as well as overseeing the design and development of numerous projects, including Pilgrim Haven, South Beach, Monroe Boulevard, North Shore Drive, and the renovation and expansion of South Haven’s Memorial Library. Additionally, Abonmarche is recognized as a regular supporter of numerous events throughout the community, such as, the National Blueberry Festival, South Haven Chamber of Commerce SUMMIT, Icebreaker Festival, and Harborfest.

Abonmarche is committed to partnering with its clients throughout Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana to improve the communities in which we live.

Allegan, Michigan Riverfront Project Earns ASCE Engineering Honors for Abonmarche

The City of Allegan’s vision and Abonmarche’s work on the Allegan riverfront district was awarded the Quality of Life Project of the Year by the Michigan branch of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The prestigious award is presented to the project which most exemplifies ASCE’s theme, “Civil Engineers Make the Difference – They Build the Quality of Life.” The Allegan riverfront project was recognized for having positive effects on human lives without adversely affecting the surrounding environment.

The Allegan downtown riverfront is located between picturesque, historic buildings and the Kalamazoo River, but the potential of the area had long been ignored and was nothing more than a series of disinvestment housing, a boardwalk and a rundown parking lot. Abonmarche capitalized on the existing assets to turn the little-used downtown area into an attraction point for businesses and visitors.

“The Allegan community gave us a great canvas and vision to work with and it has been a pleasure assisting them in bringing this vision to life” said Tony McGhee, Vice President of Development Services at Abonmarche. “Building quality of place has become a buzzword the last few years, but has been at the core of our firm’s values since we started almost four decades ago.”

Objectives of the project included enhancing of the community’s natural resources through creating a place for people to gather and recreate nestled between the Kalamazoo River and the community’s downtown. To date, three phases of the project have been completed during the past two years. What had been a dilapidated and little used parking area slowly has transformed into a destination area for residents and visitors alike.

The first phase included the development of a performance stage, landscape improvements and the development of a pedestrian plaza. The second phase included additional park improvements and the installation of a universally accessible canoe and kayak launch. The third phase included the addition of a zip line over the Kalamazoo River and parking improvements. The fourth and final phase about to begin construction in includes a splash pad, a 18’ long fire pit, additional pedestrian plaza and landscaping as well as the installation of a shade structure and additional tables and seating for people to use while enjoying the area.

The effects of the project are evident all around when one visits the downtown riverfront – from the investor interest in purchasing long empty properties, new business openings, and the increase in both the number of events and number of people attending them.

“The community’s commitment to investing in the redevelopment of our waterfront has resulted in leveraging numerous new investments in both businesses and properties within our downtown area” said Joel Dye, Allegan City Manager. “The attention the riverfront project drew to our community resulted in people seeing all of the other potential we had and the momentum has just continued to carry forward in our downtown.”

Abonmarche Earns State Finalist Honors at ACEC/Indiana 2018 Engineering Excellence Awards

Abonmarche was recognized as a state finalist for three projects during the 2018 American Council of Engineering Companies of Indiana (ACEC/I) Engineering Excellence Awards Competition on March 16.

“The ACEC awards honor firms for engineering excellence,” said John Linn, Chairman of the Board at Abonmarche. “Being selected as finalists for three projects shows our commitment to delivering superior services to our clients.”

The projects recognized were Abonmarche’s work on Ignition Park in South Bend, NewPorte Landing in LaPorte, and Western Avenue in South Bend.

On the Ignition Park project, Abonmarche provided surveying, engineering and landscape architecture services for this public-private venture with the City of South Bend and Great Lakes Capital Development. Services included site planning, drainage design, developing a master development drainage plan, sanitary sewer and water main design, sewer separation, and design of the roadway, sidewalks, lighting and landscaping.

Abonmarche Consultants assisted the City of La Porte in redeveloping its old Allis Chalmers factory site into a new commercial development called NewPorte Landing. Services included surveying, civil engineering, and landscape architecture. The City was eager to invest in storm water management practices that reduce volume and improve the quality of runoff leaving the NewPorte Landing Development. Abonmarche’s infrastructure design takes a comprehensive approach to storm water management; including mechanisms that utilize infiltration, reduce the amount of impervious surfaces, and remove pollutants. The City hopes that the best management practices employed at NewPorte Landing will set the bar for adjacent developers and communities alike to help facilitate low impact development.

Abonmarche provided surveying, civil engineering, and landscape architecture ser vices to the City of South Bend to reconstruct and enhance its Western Avenue corridor from Bendix Drive to Olive Street, approximately a ¼ mile.

The use of permeable pavers over an aggregate drainage bed addressed a drainage concern for the area. The roadway was previously drained into a combined sewer with no storm sewers in close proximity deep enough to extend service to the entire project by gravity. The permeable pavers provide the flexibility to have flatter profile grades on the road, varying cross slopes in the parking lanes, and flatter pipes in the drainage bed under the pavers.

Senior Project Manager Jason Marquardt Named to 2018 Moody on the Market 40 Under 40 List

Jason Marquardt, PE, Senior Project Manager at Abonmarche, has been named to the 2018 Moody on the Market 40 Under 40 List. The prestigious recognition program identifies 40 dynamic young professionals making a difference in our community.

Jason, a Senior Project Manager at Abonmarche, has been recognized for award-winning projects which improve the community, but still finds time to volunteer his time and talents. One of his favorite community involvement activities is participating in the Starwatchers program at his daughter’s school.

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