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ND works with city to revitalize community

Madeline Buckley | Thursday, February 19, 2009

Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a three-part series examining the development projects occurring near Notre Dame’s campus.

The University’s collaboration with South Bend to develop the neighborhoods near campus will bring a vibrancy to the community that can potentially reap benefits for students and faculty, according to Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves.

Affleck-Graves said the success of the Notre Dame community is dependent on a strong community outside the University.

The three projects Notre Dame is investing in – the Eddy Street Commons, Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization Project and Innovation Park – attempt to better the community, which in turn will benefit the University, he said.

“All three are important projects for us because they will tighten the link between the University and the community,” Affleck-Graves said. “For the University to really succeed, we need to be in a vibrant community.”

Greg Hakanen, director of asset management and real estate development, said the construction of the Eddy Street Commons is a step in the right direction toward revitalizing the neighborhood around campus.

The Commons presents faculty with a living option close to campus, and students will be able to enjoy a variety of restaurants and shops, he said.

“Notre Dame has never really had a commercial district, that some would call it a college town, with an easy walking distance to campus, so that was kind of a vacuum,” Hakanen said.

Eddy Street Commons has apartments, condos and houses, but Hakanen stressed that it is geared toward families and professionals in the area, not students.

“It is absolutely not targeted towards student housing,” he said. “One problem we were trying to address was when four, five or six students live in a rental house next to a family. That often doesn’t work out so well.”

While students generally will not be renting apartments in Eddy Street Commons, they will finally have stores and eateries within walking distance of campus, Hakanen said.

Hakanen said there will be two upscale restaurants, an Irish pub and an oyster house, and several fast, casual eateries. The casual cafes will provide quick food without waiters, but they are a step above fast food restaurants, he said.

There will also be several retail stores, an electronic store and an extension of the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore.

The names of the specific stores and eateries will be released when the contracts are finalized, he said.

Affleck-Graves said the Eddy Street Commons will create “more of an urban living environment,” which can potentially draw people to the University.

The Commons are also in walking distance of the northeast neighborhood, where the University owns many lots it uses to construct traditional-looking houses for University faculty, Affleck Graves said.

Affleck-Graves said the University, in conjunction with the Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization Group (NNRO), a grassroots community organization, rebuilds decrepit houses and develops empty lots in the area in the hopes of establishing a traditional neighborhood for both Notre Dame faculty and members of the community who are not affiliated with the University.

“People see that it’s nice to live in a neighborhood where the homes have a very traditional look,” he said. “We control the design of the home so they look like they’ve been there a long time.”

The project allows the University to give professors housing options close to campus in a nice neighborhood, Affleck-Graves said.

“A lot of faculty want to live close to the University, and it’s nice we can offer them something,” he said.

While Eddy Street Commons and the Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization Project offer students and faculty dining, entertainment and living options, Innovation Park will benefit them in another way.

Although Innovation Park is independent from Notre Dame, President and CEO David Brenner said the park will have many internship opportunities for students interested in research, and University faculty will be able to extend their academic research into the business world.

“There will be an incredible array of ways to engage Notre Dame’s research, giving faculty and students a much stronger sense of what is expected in the marketplace for their ideas,” he said.

Brenner said students with internships would be able to walk to the Park after class and work with start-up businesses as well as large, established companies.

The third part of this series will look at how these projects affect the South Bend community and its role in the projects’ development.