The town of Cedar Lake is booming.
Visionary leadership is transforming the resort town nestled in south Lake County into suburbia, where residents put down roots for generations.
Population gains to more than 12,500 from 9,200 in 2000, according to census data, are driven by smart growth emphasizing infrastructure projects that will shape Cedar Lake's future.
“For quite a long time, Cedar Lake was thought of as a resort town, a weekend getaway from Chicago,” explained Jill Murr, town administrator. “We wanted to develop a strategy that would create a city where everyone wanted to live year-round for several reasons.”
Building a family friendly community is high on the priority list.
The renovation of Lincoln Plaza is a prime example of this. “We widened all of the existing sidewalks,” said Nathan Vis, president of the Redevelopment Commission. “The benefit was twofold. First, the sidewalks in front of shops can now add outdoor dining or coffee, as desired. That can attract certain types of boutique eateries and coffee shops. Second, shoppers have a wide and comfortable path to all the businesses in the plaza, which tends to make them stay longer.”
True Value and Strack & Van Til benefit from the renovation. Pizza Hut has moved in, with indoor and outdoor dining. Anytime Fitness opened this year, and two buildings are for sale.
“We are talking with businesses that are interested in being part of the plaza,” Murr said. The city’s façade program also helps to make moving in attractive.
Infrastructure work in three residential subdivisions is making home ownership more attractive. The city has been redoing streets, curbs, and storm water drainage in South Shore, High Grove, and Parrish subdivisions.
“Again, this is a project with multiple wins,” Vis said. “For the residents living there, they needed drainage relief, and the streets needed an upgrade. We want to keep our home ownership areas strong and viable. It also sends the community a message that we take care of existing infrastructure, not just new development. That’s important to residents who have been here for a long time.”
“Cedar Lake is a relatively young town,” Murr added. “We recently turned 50 years old, which is relatively young for Northwest Indiana.”
Recently, Bobb Auto Group constructed a new 2,700-square-foot facility along U.S. Hwy. 41. Tom & Ed’s Auto Body remodeled its facility and brought along Enterprise Car Rental. BP expanded on Wicker Avenue, adding pumps along with a Dunkin' Donuts and a car wash.
A recently completed Asset Management Plan for roadways, public safety, public works, wastewater utility, water utility and storm water systems shows areas for continued infrastructure improvement.
A new roundabout at the intersection of 133rd Street and Cline Avenue is the result of a coordinated effort between the redevelopment commission and the federal/state road grant programs. The project will flatten a hill somewhat to allow for better vision and view of its namesake lake. Tax increment financing money will be used to cover the town's portion of the $2 million project.
“We’re excited about the project,” Vis said. “People seeing the lake from 133rd will be presented with a panoramic view. It’ll provide a great introduction to our community.”
The project will incorporate Opticom tools to help emergency vehicles navigate the roundabout during construction. “We put a lot of thought into how we could build the roundabout without impacting the safety of our residents,” Vis said. “Maintaining traffic control for emergency vehicles is top priority.”
A $250,000 project will create sidewalks and crosswalks by Hanover Central High School, creating a safer passage over 133rd and King Street. “We want students who live in the area, such as the Summer Winds subdivision, to be able to safely and conveniently walk to school,” Murr said. “It’s part of our vision to make Cedar Lake a walkable community.”
The lake is still a big draw, of course. Recently the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Indiana Department of Environmental Management performed a lake analysis. “They found walleye, northern pike, bullfrogs, and other aquatic life that showed the significant rejuvenation progress of the lake,” Vis said. “The DNR report also showed a significant reduction in sediments.”
Murr said a recently completed Army Corps of Engineers study of the lake’s ecosystem will provide direction for ways to improve the lake for future use while keeping the water and shoreline clean.