Developers present plans for old Transpo headquarters site

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Three South Bend developers are unveiling their plans for a prime piece of riverfront property.

Place Builders, Century Builders and Matthews, LLC all submitted proposals in April to redevelop a 10-acre parcel of land along Northside Boulevard, which used to be the Transpo headquarters.

Neighbors learned the details of the ideas for the first time during a public meeting Wednesday night.

Place Builders wants to put 40-45 single-family homes on the lot. All of them would include yards. Some are calling the proposed development a 'Sunnymeade Two.'

"We've done a lot in the Triangle and the lot sizes are so small there's no green spaces in the yard," said Andy Place, Jr. "I have three kids who play outside all the time. Well, in the Triangle, there's no place to play. So, let's narrow down the number of homes in the Transpo area so you can have that area to go out and play."

Century Builders has a slightly different plan, which would include a mix of housing. They want to build 39 single-family homes, 22 river-view town homes and 26 courtyard town homes.

"We want to have a diverse stock of housing in the area to attract different home buyers to the area," said David Sieradzki. "Attract some young families, some millennials, some retirees, people of different diverse incomes to create a truly vibrant neighborhood."

Developer Dave Matthews also thinks a variety of housing is what's best for the neighborhood. But, he wants the development to be even more diverse.

Matthews wants to construct a mix of single-family homes, town homes, condos/apartments and mews -- which are smaller versions of town homes.

His proposal also includes some commercial space and improvements to nearby Howard and Viewing parks.

"It's a low hanging fruit," Matthews said. "If we do it right, people will say, 'South Bend takes advantage of the river. They have the shops looking out over the parks, the river, they have the East Race.' And, we can take advantage and make South Bend the special place we all want it to be."

Many people who live near the property were excited to hear about the potential developments.

But, the neighborhood is split on what the best option is for the land.

"I think what is best is a stable environment, where you have single-family, detached houses," said Karen Schefmeyer with the Howard Park/East Bank Neighborhood Association. "Density is really not the best thing for this area. If they want to have density, have it on the north side of Jefferson, but have families, traditional settings on this one."

Others think the multi-family developments could give downtown South Bend the population boost it needs, bringing more business to the area.

Former governor and South Bend mayor Joe Kernan says he was impressed by all three of the proposals and is excited to see one of the developers break ground.

"People are where you get the energy and the vitality," he said. "So, the more people we can draw into the downtown who are here on a permanent basis, the better off we are."

The Transpo board will consider feedback from Wednesday's meeting as they move forward in the approval process.

They plan to vote on a developer by the end of August.

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