South Bend bringing in outside help for urban development study - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

South Bend bringing in outside help for urban development study

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The City of South Bend Department of Community Investment voted Thursday to approve a study to find out what it will take to get people to live downtown.

"If there was development [downtown] I think it'd be a good thing," said Nisa Buller, South Bend Chocolate Company retail operations manager.

For the first time ever, the city of South Bend will have an independent company come in and help them figure out how to develop downtown into a more residential area.

The firm Zimmerman/Volk Associates Incorporated will perform the study of residential market potential for Downtown South Bend. City documents say the firm is nationally known for their expertise in the analysis of compact and sustainable development.

People with the group Downtown South Bend say the study is a good first step in the right direction.

"We've got over 14,000 people who work down here on daily basis, but who is down here on the nights and weekends?," said Aaron Perri, Downtown South Bend. "We've got the special events that fill in the gaps, but night after night, week after week basis, the residential population is going to make a difference."

Businesses downtown are rooting for positive results from the independent study. They say more residents would mean more regular customers.

"[The study would] be a good for everyone," said Buller. "Anytime you have more people you hopefully get their attention and bring them in for more business."

People who work downtown say they see potential in the city, citing restaurants and plenty of things to do. They say it's all about public image.

"I've been working in downtown for almost a year and it's really not as bad as everyone made it out to be," said Nicholas Mitchell, who was told Downtown South Bend was crime-ridden before starting his job.

Working downtown and living there are two different things. Some residents say while it is a nice place to live, it has some obstacles.

"Parking is the number one trouble because you're only supposed to park for two hours and then you got to move to the next block," said Kenneth Coles, who lives near Michigan St.

People who work downtown do say they hear interest from people all the time about moving to the center of the city.

"Being here in the flower shop, above us is the state theater and we have people come in and say can you rent the apartments upstairs or is there places downstairs," said Sheri Foote, Ehninger Florist Shop. "A lot of college kids and younger people see [the potential]."

Questions the study will address include: Where potential buyers would move from? What type of housing they'd be interested in? How many new units could be sold over the next five years?
And how much should housing cost?

Officials with the city of South Bend say they expect the study to be done sometime in June. According to city documents the study will cost $38,000.

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