Cedar Lake, Indiana
A peaceful oasis a short commute to the big city
With a desirable lakefront and a laid-back lifestyle, Cedar Lake leaves no stone unturned
Few communities were considered such a popular weekend destination for Chicago residents and surrounding communities in the 1920s as Cedar Lake, Indiana. Located 45 minutes south of the Windy City, the 800-acre glacial Cedar Lake was a massive resort destination. Over the years it has evolved into more of a year-round community, but leaders are trying to walk a fine line between both identities. Catering to both year-round residents who are proud to call Cedar Lake home and the many tourists that come to take in its many charms, Cedar Lake has found the perfect balance.
Cedar Lake has a population of more than 14,000 residents according to the 2020 census. About 14 percent of the 10-square-mile town comprises the actual lake. It is the largest natural lake in northwest Indiana and appears to have formed from glacial meltwaters. An abundance of hills surrounds the lake, which is evidence of the Continental Divide running through the area. One of the many developments the town is planning would support more walkable trails around the lake. Cedar Lake is also an all-sport lake, which is very rare for this part of the Midwest.
According to Cedar Lake Town Manager Chris Salatas, it is a great place for residents to build a life because they enjoy low taxes and high quality of life while retaining access to Chicago in well under an hour, high quality of life, a great business and restaurant community, and plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities. As the Town’s permanent population grows, steps are being taken to help bring more seasonal visitors back to the Town to support new and improved infrastructure.
Not only that but Cedar Lake is also only 30-40 minutes from Lake Michigan and Indiana Dunes National Park. All of these conveniences and proactive community efforts have led Cedar Lake to be named one of the 10 fastest-growing towns in Indiana.
The dredging of the bottom of Cedar Lake is a decades-long project that is coming to fruition. It has never been dredged in its history but a settlement dewatering facility was built as part of an initial $2.2 million project. The facility will help support the ability to separate dredged material from lake water. A $6 million contract was awarded to a third-party company that will remove up to 500,000 cubic yards of material over the next several years.
Additionally, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources will fund a fish kill and restock following the dredging with the goal of restoring the lake to its original condition. “We’re calling it a lake ecosystem because we want to return it back to the condition it was in thousands of years ago,” says Salatas. “It has been a goal of his community for a long time.”
On top of that, community leaders want to give members of the public greater access to this glacial lake. While houses and other residential properties are developed around it, the city purchased five to six lots that provide access to the lake utilizing green space. The Cedar Lake Parks & Recreation Department already maintains several parks in the Town. These include Potawatomi Park, Bartlett Park, and Kiwanis Park. Lemon Lake County Park is located just northeast of the Town. But with even more green space, greater opportunities will arise for residents and visitors. Other features around the lake include a beach, several areas with benches and pavilions, and more. Providing this access to the public is important because according to Salatas, it is rare for a Town in Indiana to have access to such a large inland lake.
“We want to ensure green space is available for everyone with new developments including parks,” says Cedar Lake Redevelopment Commission President Nathan Vis. “The goal is to enable walking, biking, and cycling paths around the lake and nearby restaurants.”
Green initiatives will be added to support the lake area as a place to attract both new businesses and new families. “It’s about creating access for walkability all around our city,” Vis says. “We’re committed to giving our residents plenty of options to enjoy the local environment.”
Steady growth will help lead Cedar Lake into the next phase of its history and the Town is involved in many ongoing residential and commercial developments. Schilling Development is a local company involved in a number of projects including four residential and various commercial projects. The Town is working with Schilling to develop a large multi-use lakefront commercial and residential development.
“We’re envisioning lakefront condos or townhouses in that area around the lake,” says Schilling Development Manager Jack Slager. The Town is keeping an eye on the economy, Salatas adds before they move forward with breaking ground. From there it may take another five to seven years for completion.
One of the main commercial developments is underway in Lakeview Business Park. It broke ground last year started and covers nearly 30 acres and 20 commercial lots. The nearby Rail Side Business Park will also attract new businesses.
“This is a major attraction for commercial business owners and is a very (convenient) property with a great location,” Salatas says “We are working with various partners to market our commercial and expanding residential developments to businesses and (prospective) homeowners.”
Cedar Lake traditionally has been the home of many service-related businesses with a small number of light manufacturers. Salatas says that many of the newly opened businesses in the Town have been restaurants and financial institutions. “Ideally we would see more retailers open up in the Town and still have additional space for service-based businesses,” he says. Those service-based businesses include accounting, architectural, and law firms and an array of healthcare providers – and much more. Munster Community Hospital and Broadway Methodist are two regional hospitals in neighboring towns but are a short drive from the Town.
The Cedar Lake Chamber of Commerce is an active and robust chamber with a growing membership of hundreds. The chamber leads business marketing efforts and manages events designed to drive both new entrepreneurs and visitors to the Town. According to Salatas, Cedar Lake offers a flexible zoning process that allows for changes to meet the needs of the community. That process offers few restraints except for smoke-stacked heavy manufacturers. That means retailers, service-based businesses and even some light industrial may have their choice of locations for future developments assuming Town approval.
Salatas says Cedar Lake benefits from its partnerships with many organizations. The state Department of Natural Resources has oversight of Cedar Lake but works with the Town on specific initiatives, including the lake dredging program. Lake County commissioners work closely with Cedar Lake leadership on many projects, including planning for a current road annexation effort.
The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission supports federal infrastructure needs. One such need is a federally funded $3 million sidewalk project connecting multiple neighborhoods around the Town. Business owners are extremely active with the Cedar Lake Chamber and have been involved in “many ribbon-cutting ceremonies,” recently, according to Salatas. Numerous other developers support ongoing projects while Drive Clean Indiana is a non-profit that is helping Cedar Lake with its green scaping efforts.
“It takes a community to build a community and we are fortunate to have these partners,” Salatas notes.
The next few years will witness Cedar Lake’s leaders and residents trying to restore the Town to its golden era. To do that, Cedar Lake continues to build and grow in a holistic way that is attractive to a diverse group of stakeholders.
“We want to further build our reputation as a destination community to live, work and play,” Salatas concludes.
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AT A GLANCE
Cedar Lake, Indiana
What: a small lakeside community with big city amenities
Where: In Lake County an hour’s drive from Chicago, Illinois