Monday, July 07, 2008

The Mayor Needs Us - RSVP Deadline Tomorrow!!

Have you heard the news? The Mayor of South Bend wants us to participate at the next public forum on July 12th. This is our chance to participate in the democratic process of renovating LaSalle Square. But we have to RSVP by tomorrow, so there's no time to procrastinate. I'll be making my reservation by calling the city's Division of Community Development at 235-9660.

Here is more information about the event, which I've copied from the city website:

What's the best way to build community consensus on the future of LaSalle Square? Residents are being invited July 12 to play a game based on Monopoly to consider how to allocate public resources at the former retail shopping center in need of revitalization.

The LaSalle Square Steering Committee, a partnership of residents, businesses and the City of South Bend, is overseeing the process to create an action plan for the site. They seek to leverage public resources in order to expand private investment at LaSalle Square, located on the city's northwest side at Bendix Drive and Ardmore Trail.

But the first step, based on the advice of planners and architects from Chicago hired to assist in the process, is to get public input about what residents believe will work best at LaSalle Square. Reservations are required for the July 12 event. See details below.

"City officials, developers and planning professionals don't have a monopoly on good ideas. That was confirmed when more than 3,000 people participated in public meetings to shape the development of City Plan, the 20-year comprehensive plan for South Bend's future," said Mayor Stephen J. Luecke. "This is not just a game, but an attitude: A belief that interactive planning represents the best way to shape good public policy and foster strong private development for LaSalle Square's future."

Neighborhood Transopoly, a planning version of the classic Monopoly board game, is designed for groups of five to eight people. With support from facilitators, they will make decisions about how to spend money allocated in the game for traveling to and within LaSalle Square. Players will work on table maps of the area and consider how to improve streets, lighting and landscaping. Developed by the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology, which has used the exercise in other communities, Neighborhood Transopoly feeds the consensus from each group into overall planning.
"We tailor the game to the unique needs and interests of each community we work with," said David Chandler, the Center for Neighborhood Technology's senior business analyst.

"Basic questions of LaSalle Square's connectivity to the existing community and the potential for some form of Transit-Oriented Development can be facilitated in a short period of time with Transopoly," according to the planning proposal.

After a short break, the second portion of the meeting will feature a charrette design process managed by zpd+a, the Chicago-based architecture firm that is serving as the primary LaSalle Square consultant. The charrette, an intense period of visual and interactive design activity, will build on the Transopoly process to determine the best land uses – residential, commercial, office or retail – as well as possible look of the buildings.

Participants in the planning process will benefit from a market analysis as well as feedback from interviews with area stakeholders, including businesses, nonprofit organizations, churches, neighborhood-based groups and residents. The market analysis will assess the history, current conditions and likely future commercial and housing markets of the site. It will include studies of a one-mile pedestrian radius; the Lincolnway, Bendix and Ardmore corridors, the South Shore passenger railroad corridor; South Bend Regional Airport; the Amtrak Station; and sub-markets within a five-mile radius.

The gathering is the first of two public planning sessions, to which all are invited.

  • The first, featuring Neighborhood Transopoly, will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 12, at Faith Apostolic Church, 921 N. Bendix Drive, in LaSalle Square. Light refreshments will be served. Reservations are required.
  • A second session, tentatively scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Aug. 18, will feature a report developed based on the input from July 12. Proposed solutions for LaSalle Square will include sketches, illustrations, photos and policy recommendations.

"The only requirements for participating in the meeting are a desire to see South Bend and the West Side thrive and to register by Tuesday, July 8, so that materials can be prepared for your participation," said Jeff Vitton, the community development planner managing the project. Call the city's Division of Community Development at 235.9660 to RSVP or for more information.

zpd+a will gather all information into a draft action plan for presentation to the city's Redevelopment Commission for approval. Final action is anticipated in September.

Last summer, the Redevelopment Commission added LaSalle Square, the Marycrest/Hurwich area and the former Sample-Ewing Development Area to the Airport Economic Development Area. Mayor Luecke has pledged to make LaSalle Square a priority for investment, committing $2 million to support those planning efforts and serve as seed money for substantial private investment.

Both projects are funded by tax increment financing (TIF) revenue from the west-side Airport Economic Development Area, the city's largest.

In a TIF district, the increase in tax revenue generated by new development stays within the boundaries of the district to fund infrastructure improvements, including curbs, sidewalks, streets, landscaping and other public improvements. These resources are available for economic development but not for general city services.

Last week, the Redevelopment Commission approved a development agreement between the City of South Bend, Memorial Hospital and Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center to renovate a vacant medical office building across from LaSalle Square to create a west-side family practice facility.

In early 2009, Memorial Hospital and Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center will launch Bendix Family Physicians, a fully staffed physicians' office at 1010 N. Bendix Drive, under the auspices of the non-profit Community Health Partners of South Bend. The hospitals and private foundations will support Community Health Partners.

Renovation of the medical office building will take place in 2008. The facility is expected to open in 2009.

Community Health Partners will invest nearly $1.2 million to furnish and equip the facility as a full-service medical practice and a venue for community health information and programming, and underwrite ongoing operational costs.


  • Mikki Dobski, Director of Communications & Special Projects, 235-5855 or 876-1564
  • Jeff Vitton, Community Development Planner, 235-5827 or 289-1066, Ext. 206


Nate Ring said...

Oh darn, I want to be there. I'm shooting a wedding then!

Although, that is terribly exciting. If you feel like spouting off my thought on the matter your more than welcome. I'm sure we're thinking along the same lines.

Cops don't help that area. What would help that area is something like a YMCA. Build a community center that no-one in that area would bother destroying. It takes from all outsiders so create something from the to work with them. So ask the people that live in area what they NEED and WANT.

They need jobs, and want something to do.

(end my thoughts on the matter)

Michelle Verges said...

Nate, asking for the YMCA to join the LaSalle Square is a brilliant suggestion!! I'll be sure to speak up at the meeting and mention that.

If you guys have any other suggestions, but can't attend the meeting, feel free to use me as a messenger to share your ideas.