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JEFF'S TAKE: Mill at Ironworks Plaza a Key Step Downtown Mishawaka

Published Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I had the chance last week to attend the groundbreaking at Mill at Ironworks Plaza in downtown Mishawaka. The project is located just south of Beutter Park. Flaherty & Collins, an Indianapolis firm, is developing a 400,000-square-foot mixed-use building that will have commercial space on the first floor, 232 apartments and a parking garage.

Construction will commence in October and should be complete in two years. It is expected to employ about 400 people during construction.

The project will span two vacant city blocks that once housed the former Ball Band/Uniroyal factory. That 2 million-square-foot industrial complex that had employed close to 10,000 people was cleared in the late 1990s to make way for redevelopment opportunities on the site.

The groundbreaking on the Mill at Ironworks Plaza represents the largest development project in downtown Mishawaka since Liberty Mutual relocated a call center there in the early 1980s. This project represents a $45 million investment in downtown.

Mishawaka began planning for the redevelopment of the area shortly after Uniroyal filed bankruptcy in 1991. At the time, an urban, mixed-use, pedestrian friendly and architecturally significant redevelopment project was envisioned. In late 1997, the site was acquired and for the past 20 years the city has been working on executing on that plan.

After the demolition, the city moved forward with the development of Beutter and Kamm Island parks, as well as enhancements to Battell Park, Central Park and Lincoln Park, which are near the site.

In conjunction with those improvements, the Mishawaka Riverwalk was developed to connect each of those amenities. In recent years that 3-mile pedestrian loop has attracted thousands of visitors seeking a great place to run, walk, bike or just gather. Public art and other amenities have been added to enhance the experience along the riverfront.

Other development projects have taken shape on the fringes of the site. Mishawaka renovated the former Main Jr. High into apartments. The former Carnegie Library is currently being renovated for a restaurant use. The Townes at Kamm Island were developed and are currently being expanded. The River Rock Apartments opened earlier this year adjacent to the Riverwalk Condos that were developed in recent years.

Hospice built a new facility in the neighborhood. The former bank building at Main and Mishawaka Avenue was redeveloped into a co-working space called 101Co3. The former Tivoli block was redeveloped. The Mishawaka Food Pantry has done major renovations on the former Studebaker building on Lincoln Way, and several new users have located in the revitalized 100 Center. Many other projects are also being considered in or near downtown.

“Quality of place” are the buzzwords many communities are talking about these days as they recognize the need to build great spaces to help attract people. The Mishawaka project is a great case study for other communities to follow.

Projects like this take a lot of time, planning, patience and resources. The mayor and many city departments, the Redevelopment Commission, the City Council, the Park Board, the Mishawaka Business Association, the neighbors and countless others have all played critical roles.

From the acquisition, demolition, environmental cleanup through the development of the public spaces and the attraction of a developer, Mishawaka has executed on a long, well thought out, comprehensive plan for the redevelopment of a site. That plan has included some significant public investment that in the end has attracted some significant private investment. Watch for the biggest of those private investments to commence shortly.

Also published in the South Bend Tribune.

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