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Off-campus development proposed

Maddie Hanna | Thursday, February 24, 2005

Arriving on campus, Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students are quick to lament that their new home lacks two major assets – sunny days and off-campus options.

Although they can’t change the weather, Notre Dame and South Bend officials are targeting the second complaint by developing a new retail and residential district just outside Notre Dame’s campus, a change that will benefit both students and the surrounding South Bend community.

“Our goal is to create a community neighborhood that students can walk to – that really doesn’t exist in the Notre Dame experience now,” said Greg Hakanen, director of asset management and real estate developer for Notre Dame.

According to John Affleck-Graves, executive vice-president of Notre Dame, the new project will begin where Angela Boulevard meets Eddy Street at the soon-to-relocate Logan Center, and will continue all the way down to Napoleon Boulevard.

Affleck-Graves said he hopes to create a commercial district with one block of restaurants, stores and apartments followed by two rows of townhouses and another commercial development up to the “Five Corners.”

“You’re not going to get a Gap, a Banana Republic, something like that. We might get a small boutique, some restaurants, a Pottery Barn, maybe a bookstore,” Affleck-Graves said.

He also said that the townhouses would be independently owned and the apartments would not be marketed directly to students.

“This won’t be like Turtle Creek,” Affleck-Graves said.

Hakanen said that the University’s role in the process would entail selling the proposed land to developers and not choosing retailers.

“It’s up to developers to engage the tenants,” Hakanen said.

According to Hakanen, the idea to develop emerged from Notre Dame officials’ increasing dissatisfaction with the area immediately surrounding campus.

“The University watched, with growing dismay, the deterioration of the neighborhood,” Hakanen said.

While Notre Dame’s initial response was to acquire available property, Hakanen said a formal planning process began about three or four years ago along with the foundation of the Northeast Neighborhood Redevelopment Organization.

The NNRO, whose members include Notre Dame, the two hospitals, the Madison Center and the city of South Bend, incorporated actual residents while planning the new district, Hakanen said.

“It was important to get their input and approval in the actual process,” Hakanen said. Consequently, he said, “there shouldn’t be surprises [in the community] about this.”

Both Affleck-Graves and Hakanen said that finding a developer for the project would not be difficult, a statement supported by the high turnout at presentations pitching the project one month ago in Chicago and yesterday in South Bend.

Affleck-Graves said the new district would be appealing residentially for a variety of reasons.

“I think many people want to live near campus,” he said. “For young people, it’s a good place to be, especially with the commercial district – South Bend doesn’t have anything like that. That’s attractive.”

The timeline for the project will depend on how quickly developers commit, said Affleck-Graves.

“We would like this to begin pretty aggressively,” he said, noting that the site would be available in July or August for development.

Students said they were pleased with the announcement.

“I think it will definitely have a good impact on the community,” senior Amy Kern said. “It’ll turn South Bend into more of a college town, and maybe decrease the separation there seems to be between South Bend and the rest of the city.”

Kern said she hopes to see coffee shops and “some kind of laid-back places where students can just hang out, read or whatever.”

Freshman Matt Detwiler of St. Edward’s Hall agreed the district would benefit students.

“I think it is good for the students because it will encourage them to leave campus,” said Detwiler, who said he wants to see new cafes and clothing retailers.

However, Detwiler pointed out that the district would not be close for all Notre Dame students, and that he hoped shuttle service would increase to the new destination.