South Bend renewing downtown: city plans new residential, retail and office space.

Author:Mayer, Kathy


INNOVATIVE COMMUNITY gathering spots, a new hotel, developments in the baseball stadium area and an improvement plan for the east side of the St. Joseph River highlight the city of South Bend's three-year plan to enhance its downtown.

Finalized by the city's Redevelopment Commission last August, the Central Area Development Strategy swings into action in 2008 with $10 million in city funds.

"Expect to see some dramatic changes," promises Mayor Stephen Luecke. "Downtown South Bend is already a regional center for arts and culture, health care, business and finance. Downtown is the community's front porch where people gather, so it's appropriate to make sure we are strengthening downtown with infrastructure improvements and planning for additional residential and public space amenities."

Paul Meyer, chairman of the board of Downtown South Bend Inc., a nonprofit public/private group working for long-term downtown viability, salutes the plans. "There's a lot going on, and we're excited about it," Meyer says. "What the mayor and the city have planned will take downtown to the next level." His group, which touts downtown as a great place to work, play, live and shop, is committed to creating interest and enthusiasm for the proposed projects.

Tracking the specifics falls to Jeff Gibney, the city's director of community and economic development. He'll oversee this year's intense planning, keep the community informed and involved, promote public participation and guide the city's work.

"After 2008, we hope to begin implementing the plans," Gibney says. Meanwhile, several key private-sector projects are already underway, giving visible credence to what's ahead.

Central business district. In the heart of the traditional downtown area, located just five miles from the Michigan border and first settled by fur traders nearly 200 years ago, both renovation and new construction are occurring.

A $7 million interior and exterior renovation of the 14-story KeyBank Building at Michigan and Jefferson includes enhancing the ground floor lobby for the bank and readying the top four floors for an office of the Baker & Daniels law firm, which has signed a 15-year lease for the space. The city is supporting the project by providing parking for tenants and assisting with entrance and plaza renovations.

At Michigan and Washington, a $9 million renovation of a historic bank building that will also include an addition is underway by Michigan...

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