Five story apartment building in DTSB on fast track

Plans call for a five story, $2.5 million apartment complex project to be fast tracked in downtown South Bend.

“The ground floor is commercial. The second, third, fourth, and fifth floors are residential,” said East Bank Flats developer, Dave Matthews.

Matthews is known as the developer who built the first new market rate housing downtown South Bend has seen in 30-years.

He plans to build the new East Bank Flats apartments on a grassy knoll behind the town home project (East Bank Town Homes at Colfax and the St. Joseph River) that broke the city’s long dry spell.

Construction is expected to begin in a month or two, with the first tenants set to move in next spring.

East Race Flats will have a total of 12 units that will rent for $1,000 to $3,000 per month. “We’ll have granite counter tops, 10 foot ceiling, smooth finish, solid doors, hardwood floors, appliances in unit, so they’re just nice sized almost like condos,” said Matthews.

The East Bank Flats project actually leap-frogged another much larger set of apartment plans near Matthews other river front housing development near the gates of the East Race.

“We get nervous putting up a 50 or 60 unit apartment building in downtown so we wanted to track it and see how it goes you know, do people want condos? Do they want rental, and we’re looking for land and it made sense just to build on the land that we have and start building up that density that we need that’s so important to get in downtown.”

While Matthews is confident there is a market for more housing downtown, perhaps he’s not so cocky as to think he knows exactly what customers want.

He hopes the smaller apartment project will precede and shape the larger project.

As for the plethora of housing initiatives announced for the downtown by various developers this year, Matthews feels the overall odds of success are good. “If you think about the downtown population, there’s about 2 to 3,000 people living here, quarter of a million in the county, so you could get one percent of the population to move downtown and you double the downtown population. We’re just trying to do our part to make that a reality.”

Before construction can begin on the East Race Flats Matthews must obtain more land for parking. He has made an offer on a city owned lot nearby and the South Bend Redevelopment Commission will decide whether it wants to sell at a meeting slated for Thursday morning.

Matthews has also filed for a tax abatement on the project.

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