South Bend neighborhood plan must be effective -- and cost-effective

Residents in five South Bend neighborhoods are searching for ways to make their home turf more attractive to home buyers.

The goal of a residential marketing program is to fill vacant homes, and reduce the number of rental units.

The challenge is to come up with plans that are both effective—and cost effective.

The City of South Bend has hired a residential marketing specialist to guide the neighborhood groups, but the city is not in a position to back the marketing plans financially.

Some believe it’s hard to beat River Park if you’re looking for a family friendly neighborhood in Michiana.

“We looked at 35-different properties in three weeks,” said Willow Wetherall, who moved to South Bend from Maine. “We loved the fact that we could walk to so many things. Walk to the park, the greenhouse, the library, the farmers market.”

On the other hand, the Wetherall’s looked long and hard around River Park and didn’t find a lot of young families that owned and occupied homes there.

“I think the I don't know two or three homes next to us it was all sort of like widows,” said Willow Wetherall, who adds that she purchased her home from a 92-year old woman. “I think we live in a great place and I keep trying to attract friends and people I know to come be part of the neighborhood.”

Turns out there’s somebody else in town who feels exactly the same way. It just happens to be the guy who runs things. “We want young professionals to move into our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Stephen Luecke, (D) South Bend. “We’ve got great neighborhoods, sometimes unfortunately, they’re hidden secrets.”

Now, the city and like minded citizens from five separate neighborhoods are working in unison to bring in new blood.

Meetings are already taking place and the city has hired Sue Solmos to be its Residential Marketing Specialist. “Most of the neighborhoods I’m working with either have websites now or will have websites,” said Solmos.

There, River Park is already ahead of the game, t hanks to

“I've suggested that each neighborhood have a significant annual event if they don't already to bring people into their neighborhood,” Solmos said.

On that count, River Park already has an annual parade and there is talk of adding a yearly art fair.

Some in the neighborhood have even suggested that River Park start living up to its logo, and earn a reputation as being environmentally friendly at a grass roots level. “Maybe looking at more native plantings versus lawns and looking at green ways of managing people’s yards,” said River Park resident Katherine Kent.

While South Bend is already a self proclaimed 21st Century City, it is prepared to dabble in the world of Century 21. The neighborhood marketing effort also includes a program that invites local real estate agents to become certified to sell homes in South Bend.

The first in a series of eight classes started this week. Among the subjects covered will be South Bend’s history, along with its arts, parks and schools.

“Over time there's been an attrition to the city of South Bend’s population some of the inner city neighborhoods are not as well known know as maybe some of the bedroom communities that have happened out in Granger and that type of thing,” said Jim Dunfee of Century 21, who was enrolled in the program. “This does refocus just what we do have in the City of South Bend as far as neighborhoods go and amenities.”

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