City officials continuing to pursue options to redevelop DTSB - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

City officials continuing to pursue options to redevelop downtown South Bend

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"If you build it, they will come," is one of the most popular movie quotes of all-time, but the city of South Bend might as well adopt it as their official slogan.

City officials, who have been working hard lately to redevelop the city, are getting offers to build residential property on a regular basis.

"There's no silver bullet, there's no one activity, and certainly no one building that will be so transformitive to change the character of our city," said Scott Ford, South Bend Executive Director of Community Investment.

Ford is starting to see the fruits of his labors. He believes the momentum is building to transform Downtown South Bend into a more vibrant city center, where people would want to live.

Tuesday, Ford and his colleagues turned in a recommendation to the city's redevelopment commission to have a private investor transform the vacant LaSalle Hotel building into an apartment complex.

Ford says moves like these are just pieces in finishing a bigger puzzle.

"I do think its a series of base hits," said Ford describing the pace of the redevelopment. "I think with each one of these projects incrementally we're changing the character and changing the expectations."

Several members of the South Bend Common Council are on board with the moves Ford and the Department of Community Investment are looking to make.

Councilman Gavin Ferlic says that starts with providing investors with incentives like tax abatements and other assistance to help re-purpose historical buildings.

"The more and more we can do to set the table for positive investment whether that be residential or retail or commercial I think the better off we're going to be," said Gavin Ferlic.

Right now most of the investors the city is looking to lure are residential builders. Officials believe that will spark the interest for even more retail development.

Councilman Ferlic believes the foundation is there for downtown to take off.

"You have a lot of private investors and private developers interested in developing our city center," said Ferlic. "It's probably been awhile since that's been the case. I think it's really exciting."

There are some city council members that are concerned that these projects seem like great ideas, but also might cost the city too much money after abatements and tax breaks are handed out.

There is no timetable for a final product for the redevelopment of downtown South Bend. Those spearheading the projects would like to see the city continue to develop into downtown where people feel comfortable 24-7.

One of the buildings Councilman Ferlic is interested in redeveloping is the old Ford building off portage. The building has been vacant for years, but one private investor is interested in turning it into an apartment complex.

Tuesday afternoon, members of the council toured the building and listened to a presentation from the investor.

Ferlic said the building will need plenty of renovation, but he sees why the company would be interested.

"You can really see what are now, I wouldn't say empty beds, because its not a residential building right now, but you can really see the potential," said Ferlic.

The tour was just one step in finding a potential use for the building. There is a church in downtown Indianapolis that is going through a similar process and that's providing some motivation for the project.

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