South Bend’s public bus company is in the driver’s seat as TRANSPO prepares to sell the site of its former corporate headquarters on Northside Boulevard.
That’s a concern for some in the neighborhood who see the site as having great potential, as well as potential problems.
“Why can’t the city buy this land? I mean they can buy every strip joint in town,” asked Karen Schefmeyer, Secretary of the East Bank Village Partnership. “I can’t understand why they wouldn’t buy this nice piece of land and have families come in here.”
In 2011, the Luecke administration did put together a deal to buy the TRANSPO site, but it was defeated by the common council.
“That was the discussion a couple of years ago, they declined,” said TRANSPO board member John Leszczynski. “And, but we’ll see what happens, I think right now we’re committed in discussions with the city, that it’s TRANSPO’s property and we’ll do what we can with it.”
The ten acre parcel is within walking distance of three schools and the Farmer’s Market and it’s big enough to hold about 50 single-family homes.
“These are your own house with some privacy, a yard in the front, a yard in the back, you can have a fenced in yard, you can have a dog, you can have a swing set,” said Karen Schefmeyer.
But Schefmeyer fears that the city’s desires for single family homes could take a back seat to the bus company’s needs. TRANSPO needs to purchase some new busses next year and the sale of the parcel could go a long way in covering those costs.
“We think it’s a very prime piece of property, it’s probably the only mass of choice riverfront property in the City of South Bend right on the edge of downtown South Bend,” said John Leszczynski.
Leszczynski estimated that the land was worth about $2 million. Schefmeyer fears that price would mean that only high density developments like apartments, townhouses or condos could be profitable.
“Have the people who can afford a half million dollar townhouse, have we exhausted that market? Do you see 200 or 150 people here wanting to spend that kind of money? Do we have that many millionaires in this town?” asked Schefmeyer. “The city has to get involved here.”
Again, in 2011, the city council voted against buying the TRANSPO property for $1 million down, and another $1.5 million in annual payments.
Only a few months remain for any kind of reconsideration. TRANSPO wants to sell the parcel by the end of this year.