CEDAR LAKE | Once wrapped snugly around the shores of the lake after which it was named, this south Lake County town has kept growing, and much of the allure has been the lake, as it has always been.
At the same time, municipal leaders have embarked on a series of infrastructure projects aimed at enhancing the quality of life for residents while opening the door to commercial and residential development.
When Patrick Conlon and his wife decided to build a home in Cedar Lake, the affordable lot they found was the big draw, but the urging from a couple of friends who already had settled in town sealed the deal, he said.
"I saw trends of growth. The services were getting better. The Hanover schools were rated very highly," Conlon said. "It's been a great place. I like the small-town atmosphere. In seven years, I've made relationships with people I enjoy professionally and socially," Conlon said.
From his perch as a five-year member of the Cedar Lake Redevelopment Commission, Conlon sees clear sailing for growth.
"Within the next few months we'll have water to (U.S.) 41," Conlon said. That will position the town within a decade for commercial development in the U.S. 41 corridor, part of the town's tax increment financing district.
"In 20 years you can expect a large retailer on 41," Conlon said. He sees commercial growth happening on the town's east side as well.
Residents should expect continued residential growth, which would expand the town's boundaries and change the demographics.
"The town is getting younger families that want the best for their children," Conlon said. He sees someday being able to ride a bicycle around the lake. Children will have sidewalks to safely navigate the town's neighborhoods.
That's not a tough sell for Darlene Sund, who has spent all of her 64 years in Cedar Lake.
"I do love my community. ... I've watched it grow through all the years," Sund said.
The recent completion of the first phase of widening West 133rd Avenue and its related infrastructure improvements has been a boon, and she's looking forward to the second phase that will take it to U.S. 41.
"It has so improved the area. Now I can walk down the sidewalks," she said.
Conlon said there is no reason to doubt whether Cedar Lake's progress will continue.
"Seven years ago, the library wasn't here. The Lighthouse (restaurant) wasn't here. Fuel Fitness wasn't here. It hasn't been just residential, but also business growth," Conlon said. "In this climate, that's impressive. It's a direct function of the residential starts. You have to provide services."
Sund said, "What I really miss now is a grocery store." The former County Market was bought by Strack & Van Til but will undergo extensive remodeling before reopening.
"We can't keep the town from growing. I'd personally like to see more businesses that we could frequent," Sund said.
The "build it and they will come" philosophy in part has driven the record number of infrastructure initiatives. That includes many road projects beyond West 133rd Avenue and the creation of a municipal water utility. Conlon said all this will pay off in the future.
"Planning will be so huge in this town in the next 20 years," he said.
One big plan is the ecosystem restoration project for the lake already in the works in a cooperative effort between the town, the Cedar Lake Enrichment Association, and state and federal agencies.
"I think the Town Council and the Plan Commission have listened to the community," Conlon said.
Sund said one of the perks of working for the Cedar Lake Police Department is its location on the lake.
"I have the luxury to walk down to the lake, sit, and watch. ... With all the surrounding subdivisions, it shows me that a lot of people want to come to our community for the quality of life. I know. I love living here."