Howard Park residents want to show council that the community wants a 12 story building on the East Race

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SOUTH BEND (WNDU) --- UPDATE: Many residents are still wondering why the South Bend Common Council turned down the proposal of a 12-story building near the East Race.

As of now, the project isn't dead, but it's at a standstill.

Since the council only voted down the proposal five to four, they're taking a look at how they can just get one council member to change their mind.

All of that starts with organizing and letting council members know exactly what they want for their neighborhood, even if it strays from the plan that's been in place for decades.

Just across the river from downtown, on the east bank of the river lies the neighborhood of Howard Park.

Every month they hold a meeting to discuss how to best serve their community. This month, that means looking at development.

"They were talking about having a guest speaker and so I came here to speak." David Matthews said.

David Matthews is a developer who lives in the neighborhood and was looking to spend his own company's money on the project only to see it shut down.

"I'll always risk somebody else's money," Howard Park Resident Don Dietz said. "It's pretty much simple for me!"

If the people living in the area want the building to go up, then why would the council vote to shut it down?

The blame is falling on what the Howard Park community calls the vocal minority.

"A lot of those people who spoke against it are relations or developers themselves in the community." Matthews said.

The council members who voted the project down justify it by referring to the area's original plan to have a village-like feel. Their interpretation is that there shouldn't be any tall buildings.

"Greenwich Village. Lots of two story, three story row houses attached to each other and some of those two story homes, like the two/ three story homes are attached to 15 story buildings," Matthews said. That building doesn't destroy the feel of that neighborhood."

Now they want to know how they can convince the council to change their minds.

"Times change, plans change," Dietz said. "It's time to take a chance."

They want to move the discussion from developers and council , to a discussion between the people and the council.

"Not shoving them, but showing them what we would like," Howard Park Resident Adam Toering said. "And this is our neighborhood!"

There were only 18 people at the association meeting.

"We'll all go home and make some phone calls and see if we can't get the number to grow and get some more people involved." Dietz said.

They hope they get even more people to show the council just how much people want it.

"A number of the people I know of in this community are very befuddled by how you would not immediately say "Well there's things that we don't necessarily like but we can work on this. We can figure out a compromise to make this happen"" Toering said.

"Sometimes exceptions need to be made," Dietz said. "And you have to look at what the overall benefit for the whole community is. Not just a portion of the community."

Howard Park neighbors ask that if you're in support of the 12 story building happening, let the council know. Send them an email.

Here are the email addresses of the five council members who voted against the project:

Regina Williams-preston, rpreston@southbendin.gov
Jo Broden, jbroden@southbendin.gov
Oliver Davis, odavis@southbendin.gov
John Voorde, jvoorde@southbendin.gov
Karen White, kwhite@southbendin.gov

Original Story
A proposed 12-story apartment building for South Bend's East Bank tumbled inside the South Bend Common Council chambers Monday evening. After deliberating for three-and-a-half hours, members voted 5-4, rejecting to rezone the Commerce Center parking lot to make room for a $50 million dollar development. At-Large Councilman John Voorde said the city wants to be developer-friendly but not at the expense of aesthetics.

"I was trying to send a message to (developer David Matthews) tonight in my comments, as I told him privately a number of times, 'Dave, I think 170-feet is too high . 'Don't go that high,'" explained Voorde, who struck down the proposal. "He apparently felt he had to, to make it work."

Prior to the Monday vote, David Matthews told NewsCenter 16 he eyed a taller building in order to cover the cost of a parking garage. Had the proposal cleared, every apartment floor would have generated $100,000 annually in property taxes, removing the city and taxpayer burdens.

"We can offer to go taller, put more residential units downtown, and then have money to build the garage ourselves," said Matthews.

Matthews is referring to a pair of parking garages the City pledged to fund -- and build -- in its 2008 East Bank Village master plan. According to
the plan, the first parking structure was supposed to be built in 2009 on the former AEP parking garage site. The City expected to construct a second garage east of A.M. General by 2013.

"I feel if the city contributes something financially, he doesn't have to go that high and (Matthews) said that," Voorde added.

During a round of questions at the full council meeting, Matthews said he would consider an 11-story building. In a memo dated December 12, Voorde said Mayor Pete Buttigieg preferred a building height of 151 feet.

Like Voorde, East Bank's council representative Jo Broden liked the intent of the project. Nonetheless, she cited towering height concerns as one of the reasons she rejected the Matthews proposal, as the neighborhood's building height limit is 60-feet, or roughly four stories. She also said the project went against the mid-range building height the City envisioned its in 2008 East Bank Village master plan.

Similarly, Regina Williams Preston contended rezoning the parking lot from a Central Business District (CBD) to a Planned Unit Development (PUD) could set the wrong precedent for developers in the East Bank. The attorney for Matthews argued the PUD rezoning expanded the Council's control over the development.

Randy Kelly diverted, saying the council was well-informed on the iterations of the plan.

Will Matthews attempt another pass of his apartment tower? He claims a $4.9 million dollar chunk of the state-funded Regional Cities grant, which was intended to back the 12-story building. He told NewsCenter 16 he will find an alternative -- possibly removing the height limit from the neighborhood master plan or revisiting the plan. Matthews suggested he would be willing to use the Regional Cities money for a new market study, since it cost the City $50,000 to configure the East Bank plan eight years ago.

"If that comes back, 'Hey, taller is better, then we could probably get the project approved," he said.

Had the Council approved rezoning, the 12-story building was planned to have a Martin's Supermarket, pharmacy, and 240 apartments.