CEDAR LAKE — Prospective developers are calling, and plan commissioners have confirmed the proposed Town Center area’s place in the Cedar Lake comprehensive plan.
Town Center is part of a long process that involved officials' visits to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, said John Foreman, a Town Council member and Plan Commission member.
Cedar Lake Town Council members and other officials looked Lake Geneva for ideas on how best to grow their community, and the Town Center became their response as to how to transform their lakefront community.
If successful, Town Center, which would involve the Town Complex and the neighboring Midway Gardens area, could return that part of the lakefront into a recreation and entertainment mecca much as it was in Cedar Lake’s early days.
Already, as Town Council President Randy Niemeyer announced, a hotel developer based in Canada expressed interest in having “a look at our town” and sizing it up for a project.
The town is seeking outside investors for its Town Center project, which if realized would be a multifaceted development along the lakefront that would eventually include a bandshell, walking and multiuse trails, and athletic fields.
Town officials have formulated an estimate of $150 million for the project by talking to engineers, real estate brokers and other professionals.
"(It's) just an estimate," Neimeyer has said. He and town leaders are shooting for a 5-to-1 ratio of private-to-public investment.
Niemeyer called it a public and private partnership that would get public money in the form of tax increment financing obtained from redevelopment.
The idea is, once development starts, the baseline assessed value will go up, which will increase the amount of TIF funds available to the town.
“(TIF) would be one mechanism,” Niemeyer said. He does not expect the town will put out bonds at any point for improvements.
Plans for Town Center also coincide with the Cedar Lake eco-restoration project, a plan which has been on the drawing boards for years. Both projects go hand in hand, Niemeyer has said, because tax money from new development could help fund the town’s portion of lake eco-restoration.
The projected cost of the lake eco-restoration project is $22 million, half of which the town expects to pay and the other half to be paid by the federal government. That amount is separate from the estimated $150 million downtown project cost.
A feasibility study should be approved by the Army Corps of Engineers next spring, according to Town Administrator Jill Murr said. Plans and specs should be completed by next fall, and the first contracts could be awarded in 2019.
The Town Center plan itself calls for a boutique-style hotel in the Midway Gardens neighborhood. That hotel ideally would have a conference center that could accommodate up to 500. Surrounding that area would be small shops and restaurants.
The Town Complex, which is home to Cedar Lake’s municipal buildings, would be the site of a lakeside band shell, walking trails and athletic fields.
Niemeyer said town officials have met with a developer who already has had success with entertainment and business park projects in Illinois. The town also expects to be working with the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the state's commerce agency.