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Is Housing Boom in Area Related to Population Growth?

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Posted by: Jeff Rea
President and CEO
St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 12:00:00 am

I had an opportunity last week to join the celebration of the grand opening of the River Rock Apartment Project on West Mishawaka Avenue in Mishawaka. The $15 million project includes 73 one- and two-bedroom units close to downtown and the popular Mishawaka Riverwalk.

The site has special meaning to me and my family. My great-grandfather started his business on the site in 1932 and was a prominent part of the block for next 25 years. Over time, the block included a number of notable landmarks like the North Side Theater, Joey’s Restaurant, several apartment and residential buildings and municipal parking. The block, however, is probably best known as the site of the former Pleasureland Museum.

Mishawaka envisioned something greater for the downtown and the riverfront area and the Redevelopment Commission worked to assemble the land for future development opportunities. A downturn in the economy and several starts and stops on other downtown projects left people wondering about whether the site could ever reach its full potential.

A private sector developer teamed up with the city and took great risk to make the project happen. That developer may have been the only one who thought the concept could become a reality. Fast forward and you have a finished project with 63 percent of the units occupied and the developer looking at other downtown opportunities.

Elsewhere, construction should begin early in 2017 on several other downtown Mishawaka housing projects, including the River Walk Apartments, River Front Forge Condominiums (33 units), and the Mill at Ironworks Plaza (230 units). Add to those construction at Grandview (200 units), Fir Road North (400 units) and Fir Road South (516 units), and Mishawaka is going through a mini high-density housing boom.

But that tells only part of the story. South Bend has a housing boom of its own underway. Recently, the former Hoffman Hotel (48 units) and the Colfax & Hill Development (17 units) have opened. In the midst of construction is the renovation of The LaSalle (67 units), the JMS Building (52 units) and the former Chase Tower (83 units). On the drawing board are the East Bank Flats (12 units), the Wharf site Project (24 units), River Race Flats (32 units), the Commerce Center (250 units), the former Madison Center (55 units) and Berlin Flats (120 units). Another 90 residential units are planned on the former Transpo site, just east of downtown.

Projects like those above, especially in the downtown areas, are complicated. They take a significant amount of time to develop and require the right public-private partnership to make them a success. Developers could reap great rewards or could experience significant losses. These developers feel the great momentum happening in South Bend and Mishawaka and hope the timing of these developments helps them capitalize. Constructions workers should remain busy in the foreseeable future.

The high-density housing boom in the urban core is a result of efforts to attract and retain young people and give them more urban options for living. Their efforts are critical to the efforts to grow population in our area as each contributes to our area having attractive places for people to work, live and play.

New construction in South Bend and Mishawaka has both communities positioned to capitalize on new people discovering our region. How can you help? Have a former classmate, son or daughter, family member or friend not living in the area, make sure they know about the great new opportunities that await them here in our region.

Source: South Bend Tribune

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