South Bend Redevelopment Commission agrees to spend $1.6M to knock down abandoned townhomes

Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 7:37 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - It’s been years since former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg demolished 1,000 vacant and abandoned homes in 1,000 days.

Yet suddenly, the city has ambitious plans to knock down 91 dwellings in a single summer.

On Thursday, the South Bend Redevelopment Commission agreed to spend $1.6 million to demolish 91 public housing units, leaving nearly nine acres of nothingness in a neighborhood just west of Four Winds Field.

All the townhomes in the Monroe Circle public housing project have been vacated and will be demolished. South Bend Housing Authority Director Catherine Lamberg considers the situation ideal.

“I think it is an ideal situation because what it presents itself as an opportunity to make way for new change,” she said.

The townhomes are considered to be obsolete both physically and philosophically.

“There was a philosophy in the 60s and 70s that building these large public housing complexes, there are some infamous examples like Cabrini Green in Chicago, and so HUD’s strategy has shifted,” said South Bend Department of Community Investment Director Caleb Bauer. “We know outcomes for low-income families are better when they live in a mixed income neighborhood, and concentrating all public housing in one area really is not great for the residents, it’s not good for the community.”

The vision of the future of public housing in Knoxville, Tenn., has low-income housing located near medium and market rate units, where there is access to employment, transportation, health care, and internet.

South Bend will apply to the same federal program that awarded Knoxville a $40 million grant to rebuild its Western Heights neighborhood. The program is known as the HUD Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, or the C.N.I.

“The C.N.I. implementation grant can be funded up to $50 million, so that’s a good place to start your redevelopment process,” Lamberg said.

It’ll likely be about a year before the city will find out the fate of its C.N.I. grant application. The Redevelopment Commission also allocated $500,000 to assist with the grant application process on Thursday.

Right now, there are no plans to demolish the nearby public housing high rise that bears the name of Rabbi Shuman.

Officials said that building was easy to secure, and that the Monroe Circle units were being demolished now because they were difficult to secure.