LAPORTE | Preserving the public view of Pine Lake — a major concern in the city due to lakefront development in recent years — has received a $150,000 shot in the arm.
Horizon Bank and the Alcoa Foundation have donated $75,000 apiece to further plans for a park at the former site of Roscoe's, a once popular lakefront restaurant on Pine Lake Avenue just south of Ind. 39.
The money was given to the Unity Foundation of LaPorte County, which acquired the nearly 2 acre parcel in 2011 for more than $500,000 several years after the site was cleared, said Ed Volk, co-chairman of the Unity Foundation of LaPorte County.
After Roscoe's closed about a decade ago, the owner, John Diedrich, sold the ground to a developer intent on erecting a six-story condominium building.
Many residents were upset that prior condominium developments along the shoreline just to the north had further restricted the view of the water.
The condominium plans were later shelved when the 2008 recession hit and the Unity Foundation acquired the property from a bank in Milwaukee that foreclosed on the parcel, said Volk.
"That's what got us going. We didn't think a six-story condo there would be appropriate," said Volk.
Volk said the Unity Foundation has raised about $800,000 and needs another $400,000 before the park can be developed.
He said achieving the $1.2 million goal will allow the Unity Foundation to do things like reimburse itself for the cost of purchasing the ground and create an endowment that will go toward future maintenance of the park without the city having to be responsible financially for the park's upkeep.
The land will be turned over to the city once all of the monies are raised "to become a benefit to the community, not a burden," said Volk.
Envisioned at the site, initially, is a parking lot along with benches for people to sit in a grassy area and enjoy the view of the water.
Maggie Spartz, co-chairman of the Unity Foundation, said lighting, bicycle racks, a drinking fountain and awnings for people to sit under also are planned during the first phase of development.
Any other amenities will be decided later by park officials.
"It's a new thing for all of us so we'll just have to take one step at a time," said Spartz.
City Councilman Ron McAtee said preserving the lakefront is a major issue given the limited amount of shoreline on Pine Lake that hasn't been developed.
"Unlike Chicago, we have only a limited amount of lakeshore we can use for the public. This gives us a beautiful view of the lake and so forth. I think it's a good thing for us," said McAtee.