New plans for old Studebaker building - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

New plans for old Studebaker building

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It's been five decades since the Studebaker plant closed it's doors.  But South Bend leaders are marking the anniversary by focusing on the future.  Friday night they made a big announcement in a big way.

They put 20 spotlights at different spots around the city to highlight new innovations that have happened since Studebaker closed.  Places like the Cove and the Kroc center.  The next spot to see innovation?  The Studebaker plant itself.

"We are announcing an innovation center to be housed in the old Studebaker factory."  That announcement made in a video shown to dozens of people Friday night.

Local entrepreneur Kevin Smith is investing in the old building to turn it into what's being called the Renaissance District.  It will include housing, shopping, dining, data centers, an innovation center, and other businesses and services for South Bend.

"The big building was a negative icon for years, it loomed over us, it didn't allow us to believe any more so I got tired of it," said Smith, "I took it upon myself to take that negative icon and transform it into an inspirational icon for everybody to use."

One group is already inspired by this new idea.  En Focus, a local economic development group, announced they'll be the first tenant in the new Renaissance District.  Andrew Wiand with En Focus said, "let's take this ecosystem and this community and really look towards the future and building a better future with technology with new human capital and the belief that we can really do this as a community."

It's a plan community leaders are excited about.  Mayor Pete Buttigieg said this further proves South Bend can not only survive but thrive.  "You and I are lucky to live in a time where the city is ready at long last to recognize it's own great strength and to realize it's own great potential," said Buttigieg.

And a former Studebaker employee, who saw the factory in action, is excited about bringing new activity to the place where he used to work telling the crowd Friday night, "guys let's get behind them and make this place the best in the world."

The transformation could take several years but construction is already underway.  You should see some major changes by next Fall.

And the public's input is welcome in this project.  For the next year they'll be meetings every third Thursday of the month at Union Station to gather ideas.  They'll be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. so if you have an idea share it.

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