The Move To Modern Urban Living In The Midwest

By+Kelli Stopczynski

Winds of urban change are blowing through our area – change in the way homeowners are living as well as the communities they inhabit. Yes, subdivisions chock-full of spacious homes are still alive and well, but you don’t need to look far to find contemporary living blossoming in our area. Read on to discover what makes these communities unique and why their clientele might surprise you.

East Bank Townhomes
Colfax Avenue, South Bend

It’s an oddly shaped, .83 acre piece of riverfront property in downtown South Bend nobody seemed to want.  When the city put the former Rink Riverside printing site up for sale a few years ago, developer Dave Matthews said he looked at it but passed because he couldn’t quite decide what it should be. 

“Then November of last year I was driving by and it just clicked for me.  I’d had a lot of success at Ivy Quad (a recent development east of Notre Dame along Twyckenham), but had encountered potential buyers who said they wanted something more local, closer to downtown,” Matthews said.

He worked out a deal with the city and broke ground on what will soon be 12 townhomes near the corner of Colfax Avenue and Sycamore Street. 

A South Bend native and Adams High School grad, Matthews said it’s important for him to see the downtown area thrive once again.      

“The way I see business, you have to have households with a certain level of income nearby so they can show up at your door and buy stuff,” he explained.  “For South Bend to succeed, you need to have people living downtown.”

Together with local architects Jeff Helman and Brad Sechrist, Matthews designed the ‘near custom’ homes ranging anywhere from 1,700-2,700 square feet and a price tag of $200,000 to $300,000.  ‘Near custom’ means tenants buy a building size then work with architects to design their own floor plan. Some of the optional upgrades include rooftop access, private gardens and a sunroom.   

Within the modern development, Matthews is introducing flat rooftops – a design he’s thoroughly researched – that boast a 40 to 50 year        life-span.

“They build them all over the country, but not really in this area.  We’ve discovered there’s a way to protect the rooftop from damaging ultra-violet rays and water damage and still make it a fully functional living space,” said Matthews.

The East Bank development features eight waterfront residential units, staggered to enhance privacy and allow each home a patio with views of the St. Joseph River and the South Bend skyline.  Matthews expects the first phase of six townhomes to be complete later this fall.

IronWorks of Mishawaka
Kamm Island, Mishawaka

More than 150 years ago, the southern banks of the St. Joseph River in Mishawaka were booming with industry, entrepreneurship and life. During World War II, Ball Band (a company that manufactured rubber shoes and boots) employed more than 10,000 workers who made rubber self-sealing fuel cells to equip U.S. Military aircraft.  But in the decades after the war, the industry fizzled.  At the turn of the new millennium, more than 5,000 sticks of dynamite reduced the five largest buildings on the site to rubble. 

That blast would be a new beginning for the area that once sat as the Princess City’s largest eyesore. In 2006, Robert Stephens, President of the Prime Development Corporation, established the IronWorks of Mishawaka, LLC, as the business entity responsible for development of the 30 acre riverfront site. 

Fast forward to 2010, and it’s tough to find words to describe the City of Mishawaka and Stephens’ transformation of the property.  Walking paths, gardens and playgrounds are now a mecca for local residents who enjoy the riverfront park areas year-round.  A beautiful mixed-use building near the Main Street Bridge is complete and waiting for the perfect office, retail and restaurant businesses to move in. 

It’s all part of the City and Ironworks’ vision for Mishawaka’s urban development.

“This area is unique. There is nothing like this in the whole country for a city of this size,” Stephens explained.  “A lot of these Midwestern towns lost their diversity as people moved out into suburbia. They haven’t been able to attract families back into the cities, but we are doing it.”

A part of the development that will help this vision to provide a true urban-infused lifestyle in downtown Mishawaka is the luxurious Townes at Kamm Island Park. 

The homes range in size from 1,900 to 2,900 square feet and feature spacious, unique floor plans and breathtaking views of the river.  A variety of tenants – from retired couples to young professionals to University of Notre Dame professors and graduate students – already live in the posh, contemporary development. 

“If you do things a certain way, you attract a certain market” Stephens said. “This is a new urban type of development that focuses on convenience – where residents can walk to work, dinner and have everything they need at their fingertips.”

Stephens is currently working on updating plans to develop the area just east of Main Street, near the Mishawaka Police Department. One thing’s for sure – the man who quietly grew the upscale neighborhoods of Barrington Estates, Estates East and Highland Village along the St. Joseph River in Mishawaka over the past several years is certainly on to something.  He’s breathing new life and entrepreneurial spirit into an area that will certainly put a new focus on contemporary living.

The Foundry Lofts and Apartments
Eddy Street, South Bend

It’s a wonder the development didn’t come along sooner.  Prime real estate that sat vacant across the street from the University of Notre Dame for decades has flourished into a thriving community of its own.

“Everything is right in the area, in the vicinity,” said Senior Property Manager Chris Jacowiak. “You walk out the door, you’ve got beautiful shops and restaurants right there.  Everything is within reach.”

The 266 apartments at The Foundry at Eddy Street Commons offer a variety of modern floor plans for 1, 2 and 3 bedroom luxury apartments.  As close as it is to Notre Dame, you might assume it’s full of students.  But that’s simply not true. 

“We have criteria for tenants.  First of all they must be over the age of 21.  We have a good number of graduate students here as well as local business professionals and retirees from the area, alumni and even a couple families with kids.  It’s a good mix,” Jacowiak said.

Rent runs anywhere from $1,190 to $2,655 a month, and includes parking in the on-site parking garage, water and sanitation costs and full access to the development’s other amenities – a fitness center, clubhouse, business center, private theater/game room, billiards room and tanning. 

The apartments themselves are a luxurious entity all their own, featuring 10 foot ceilings, exposed brick walls, hardwood style floors and private baths for every room.  Select apartments also have private balconies. 

What’s more, The Foundry’s rooftop is available for private parties and you don’t have to be a tenant to rent the space for a contemporary evening under the stars. 

As Notre Dame Alumni venture back to campus, they’re taking notice of the impressive development on Eddy Street.  Locals are also embracing the plan that turned a vacant plot of land into a unique, eclectic community all its own.