UPDATE: New condo towers to overlook river in South Bend

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - It’s do or die time for a proposed downtown South Bend development that calls for the construction of twin seven-story towers on a prime parcel along the St. Joseph River at Colfax.

Rendering provided

The project calls for $38.5 million in private investment while the city has agreed to contribute $5 million.

“It wasn’t our choice but it’s somewhat fortuitous that it’s waited this long, said Tom Panzica with Three Twenty at the Cascades. “Because it’s a better project all the way around.”

The developers first acquired the parcel in 2011 and first proposed developing it in 2013. It’s the plot on which the old Captain Alexander’s/Wharf restaurant once stood.

For some two decades, the land has mainly stood vacant, with the exception of hosting eight years of the annual beach party known as “On the River.”

In recognition of the past inactivity at the site, a development agreement approved by the City of South Bend today spells out some key deadlines that must be met. For instance, if construction on the first tower hasn’t started by the end of April 2018, it would result in the forced sale of the property to the city.

The first building will stand seven stories tall with first floor retail under six floors of condos (12 to 15 units in all). It would have to be completed within 24 months after the start of construction.

The developers would have to begin building the second seven story tower by the end of June 2021, and wrap up the work by September of 2023. The second building would either house apartments or a hotel depending on market conditions at the time.

“What we’re trying to do is bring kind of a big city mid-rise urban experience to the South Bend market, so it will be that quality of space,” said Panzica. “It's just sat vacant for too long and what's important about the site we think is that everything we overlook is world class. You have a world famous sculptor’s work on the river Mark di Suvero’s Keepers of the Fire), you have a world famous architect’s work in the Philip Johnson Century Center. You have another world famous architect who did the 1st Source/ Double Tree Center. So we feel that the site requires something of an equal stature.”

It is a $38 million project that promises to redefine South Bend's skyline.

Twin seven-story towers will be built in downtown South Bend on the former site of the Wharf Restaurant at Colfax Avenue and the St. Joseph River.

It's a prime piece of real estate that overlooks the Century Center dam and South Bend's River Lights.

The project will be carried out in two phases, with groundbreaking on the first building to take place next month.

"It will consist of one level of commercial space on the ground floor overlooking the river, which will most likely be [a] restaurant-bistro, that sort of thing," developer Tom Panzica said. "And the upper levels will be condominium units."

The project has been on the drawing board for years, and the most recent version carries a $38.5 million price tag, with the city contributing $5 million.

The latest development agreement states if construction deadlines aren't met, the developers have agreed to sell the property in question to the city.

Mark Peterson will have a full report on NewsCenter 16 beginning at 5 p.m.