New efforts are underway to battle blight along South Bend’s Lincolnway West corridor.
That’s the high profile path between the airport and the downtown, and some key community players are determined to make improvements.
“It’s a high priority, it’s a very high priority,” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg, (D) South Bend.
In the past, the City of South Bend has contributed money to make improvements along Lincolnway and South Bend appears determined to do so again.
“We are pulling together dedicated funding that the council approved for vacant and abandoned houses, that's going to make an impact here, and we also need to take a good hard look at those TIF (Tax Incremental Financing) boundaries and see if there's a way to adjust them that takes in the corridor more and allows us to make a difference for more families and businesses here,” said Mayor Buttigieg.
Gene’s Camera Store has been part of the picture along Lincolnway West for nearly 75 years and Gene’s continues to be part of the solution to the corridor’s problems. Next month, Gene’s will expand into the vacated building next door that once housed Albert’s Bar. The space will be converted into a photo studio and rented to interested photographers.
We’ve actually survived and thrived here on Lincolnway and I always kind of believe you should grow where you're planted,” said Gene’s owner Jack St. Pierre. “So many people focus on the negative, but 110 businesses, along Lincolnway, that's what, probably about as many businesses as in University Park Mall.”
While the Lincolnway has 110 businesses operating along its strip, the corridor’s success is often overshadowed by the blight.
While it’s too early to tell what the budget for improvements will be, community activists who held an open house today are already planning a community cleanup for May.
“I would like to think that we're at the low point and the only place to go is up,” said Jerry Niezgodski who lives by Lincolnway and serves on the LaSalle Square Steering Committee. “Some stuff is very simply, I mean, if we got enforcement of certain ordinances that already exist, more stringent I mean I’m not saying they're not, but perhaps more stringent and focus along the corridor, that can only help our cause.”