Cedar Lake releases Park Place drawings

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

More than two years after making a committment, and just a few months after purchasing their plot, Cedar Lake Lodge is almost ready to break ground at the Henry County Recreation and Services Park.

Friday morning, Cedar Lake President and CEO Jim Richardson brought drawings of what the company’s two new group homes — which Cedar Lake refers to as Park Place — will look like to Henry County Judge Executive John Logan Brent. He also said Cedar Lake would be ready to break ground in November.

The 14,000 square foot project will house 16 Cedar Lake residents, and have about 50 employees, with a $3 million annual budget.

Richardson said about 20-30 of the jobs will be new, and the rest will be transfers from Cedar Lake’s Lodge campus in La Grange. He added that many of the agency’s 110 Henry County employees already have expressed interest in working at the new location.

Cedar Lake will hold an invitational bid to a select number of companies for construction of the project, and that will be out by the end of the month. Construction on the homes should begin in November, according to Richardson, who estimated the facility will cost about $2.4 million to build.

Brent was happy with the drawings Richardson brought, saying the buildings were beautiful.

“We kept our focus on the park,” Richardson said. “We’re going to be there a long time. It’s going to be very visible, and a lot of people will judge us about how we project an image in the community. We want to do the best we can to project a positive image.”

The homes are licensed health care facilities that will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are intermediate care facilities for people with mental retardation.

Cedar Lake is not gaining beds in the process, but transferring 16 from the La Grange campus. When Cedar Lake Lodge received 20 new ‘beds’ several years ago, Richardson said it put the facility over capacity.

Construction of the Henry County facility is part of an $8.5 million fundraising project by Cedar Lake. Donations have been down, Richardson said, in part because of the sagging economy.

He said that since September 2008, Cedar Lake Foundation lost $6 million. “It’s tough out there ... we had a hell of a bad financial year,” Richardson said, later adding that as the market bounces back, the foundation has regained some of the money it lost. But the economy hasn’t deterred Richardson and Cedar Lake from its mission and projects.

“All in all, we haven’t backed away from our plans,” he said. During the worst of the economic storm, Richardson said the foundation knew it was still on board. “You can’t stop the world, the world is still spinning, you still have to help people,” he said. “It didn’t slow us down, it forced us to take serious looks at the economics.”

That meant scrapping some measures that would have been innovative and power saving. “We would like to have done certain passive solar, hydro-thermal stuff ... but when you look at the pay off, we had to get efficient,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of spending the donors’ money that way.”

In addition to the November ground breaking in Henry County, Cedar Lake will hold a ceremonial ground breaking at Cedar Lake Lodge on Sept. 26. As part of the lodge’s Family Fest gathering, attendees will do a ceremonial dig of soil that later will be deposited at the Park Place site.


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