SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Five years in the making, and about a year later than initially projected, the first new home is rising on the former Transpo headquarters site in the city’s Howard Park/East Bank Village area.

Construction initially had been targeted to begin last fall, but developer Century Builders had to wait for the city to complete a $5.1 million combined sewer overflow separation project in the area, which involved installing new streets, sewers, water lines, curbs, tree lawns and sidewalks, said Century Builders owner Jim Sieradzki.

The 12-acre site, to be called The Village at Riverwalk, will offer views of the St. Joseph River along Northside Boulevard. It will contain 43 custom-built single-family homes, starting at $350,000, and 42 town homes, in three 14-unit pods, starting at $270,000.

“This is a great story for South Bend,” Sieradzki said. “These people are going to bring new people into the city, to walk the streets and occupy these homes. That area is going to be a boon to the Howard Park area in general and increase everyone else’s property values in there.”

Francis Street resident Mary Bundy, president of the Howard Park Neighborhood Association, said the group is happy to see construction finally begin. She hopes the homes won’t be priced too high to sell quickly. Sieradzki said she has nothing to worry about.

“Absolutely not . we know our market,” he said. “We study the market and we know who we’re building for.”

Sieradzki said he has sold two lots so far, and he expects to work more aggressively on sales after a planned Aug. 31 groundbreaking ceremony with city officials. He thinks the homes will appeal to people who live in affluent areas of Granger, as well as the middle-to-upper income Wayne Street/Jefferson Boulevard/Sunnymede areas in South Bend.

A couple who is nearing retirement age and lives in the Wayne Street area is buying the first home, Sieradzki said. They are attracted by the idea of designing a home with an efficient, open-concept floor plan that includes a ground-floor master bedroom, so they don’t have to climb stairs as they age, he said.

They also are excited to live within walking distance of downtown and the East Bank Village, where the city plans to entirely redesign Howard Park and improve pedestrian paths along the river, he said.

Sieradzki, who built about half the homes in the Triangle area east of Eddy Street Commons, where homes are now selling for at least $600,000, said he also plans to market The Village at Riverwalk to university faculty. He expects to have the development finished in two years.

Bundy said that even if the lots fill up quickly, as she hopes, she wished the new homes would be more affordable.

“The price points are set way too high,” she said. “Would anyone who works for the city be able to afford a house or condo and live in our neighborhood? In a neighborhood that I’d like to see be more diverse, this will tilt it in a different direction and doesn’t allow someone making $50,000 a year to come in a buy a two-bedroom condo very easily,” she said.

Karen Schefmeyer, spokeswoman for another area group, the East Bank/Howard Park Neighborhood Association, welcomed the new construction.

“This is the future for bringing families back to downtown South Bend,” Schefmeyer said. “It is history in the making. It was a long process to get it approved and to have the infrastructure completed with streets, sidewalks, utilities. But it looks like it’s being done right.”

James Mueller, executive director of the city’s Department of Community Investment, said the city is eager for the project, which will generate at least $200,000 per year in new property taxes, about half of which will go the city, Mueller said.

“This is one of the first substantial residential developments so close to the core of the city in a long time, so we’re excited to see that,” Mueller said. “I think the developer and the city are both confident that the market is there. You can’t build houses there for less than a few hundred thousand dollars, at least houses that customers will want. There’s so much development going on, the cost of some materials have gone up.”

Regarding affordability, Mueller noted that the city plans next year to commission a market study of new home construction demand across all income levels on the city’s west and northwest sides.


Source: South Bend Tribune, http://bit.ly/2vh6rpm


Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com

This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by the South Bend Tribune.