Buttigieg’s transportation strategy? Smart Streets. It improved downtown South Bend, but troubles remain | Nearby

Catrina P. Smith

Editor’s observe: A version of this post initially appeared in The Tribune in 2019. We are re-publishing the tale now in the wake of Pete Buttigieg’s nomination by President-elect Joe Biden for Transportation Secretary, and because issues about the ex-mayor’s signature transportation undertaking have been renewed.

SOUTH BEND — After Pete Buttigieg’s tenure as South Bend mayor ended in 2020, he remaining just one very seen reminder of his time primary the metropolis.

Downtown underwent a spectacular transformation below his management. 1-way streets grew to become two-way. Pace limits were being minimized. Driving lanes were narrowed. Trees have been planted. Ornamental brick pavers had been laid.

The challenge acquired countrywide focus and accolades for the metropolis, and for the mayor.

Buttigieg and his supporters reported his signature “Smart Streets” initiative brought a lot extra than aesthetic improvements. They argued that a extra pedestrian-friendly downtown spurred more than $100 million in private financial investment, as several crucial properties discovered new lifetime.

New lodges. New flats. New dining places.

As the financial system recovered from the recession of 2008-’09, some of that financial commitment could possibly have been unavoidable.

But Jeff Rea, president of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce, claimed the Buttigieg administration assisted consider the progress to a different amount.

“You can not essentially give Pete or Smart Streets credit rating for all of all those (projects) but unquestionably the mayor has an critical influence on the weather alone and their willingness to get discounts finished,” mentioned Rea, a former Republican mayor of Mishawaka. “The metropolis has been aggressive in pursuing these initiatives.”

Indeed, all of the new residences and condos downtown, through renovation of older buildings and new building, did not come about by accident. The town in 2013 hired sector exploration agency Zimmerman Volk Associates to project the possible industry for downtown housing. The firm’s study concluded that downtown experienced the potential to soak up 322 new apartment models, and developers have explained the review gave them a lot more self confidence to invest.

6 a long time afterwards, extra than 500 units had been crafted or had been under development. They lured new residents to the town, from modern Notre Dame graduates to vacant-nesters hunting to downsize.

A.J. Patel, CEO of JSK Hospitality & Enhancement, which opened the Courtyard by Marriott downtown, instructed The Tribune in 2018 that he would have constructed the hotel no matter of Good Streets. But he explained the undertaking as a crucial secondary issue guiding his company’s $14 million financial investment.

“Overall, with the two-way streets and the condominium persons, it is a livelier downtown,” Patel explained at the time. “Anything form of came alongside one another and it’s cleaned up the entire space. You’ve bought a distinct graphic when you go down there now, in contrast to 5 several years ago.”

Not all people has been a fan. Critics have complained that the new apartments’ regular monthly rents, effortlessly topping $1,000, are priced outside of lots of residents’ attain. They also questioned irrespective of whether assignments that could have experienced a immediate influence on struggling neighborhoods ought to have been prioritized as an alternative. 

The street changes themselves also annoy some motorists. Any information story about Good Streets that is shared on Fb is sure to draw issues from people that there is now also a great deal targeted visitors congestion downtown at peak journey situations. The roundabouts that ended up mounted as part of the venture have also been criticized as avoidable aesthetic attributes.

For his aspect, Buttigieg has explained that slowing website traffic downtown was just the issue, to help make the streets additional pedestrian- and small business-helpful.

Wanting forward, there are crucial areas of downtown, which include the previous College Soccer Hall of Fame and the State Theatre, that continue to want to be addressed.

And then there’s Smart Streets’ roughly $21 million selling price tag, paid for with bonds that are getting repaid with Tax Incremental Funding income, which will come from home taxes paid on the assessed valuation growth in an place.

That undertaking, mixed with the city’s $50 million overhaul of its parks technique, poses a “challenge” to the city’s means to make other large investments in the in close proximity to foreseeable future, Rea reported.

But Mark Neal, who was Buttigieg’s controller and crammed in as mayor for the duration of Buttigieg’s 7-month deployment to Afghanistan with the Navy Reserves in 2014, claimed he wasn’t anxious that the city experienced unfold itself way too slim. That’s mainly because the city’s home tax profits is growing with elevated assessed valuation, he mentioned.

The assessed value of downtown house rose from about $132.8 million in 2013 to roughly $160.9 million in 2018, a 21-% improve, according to a Tribune evaluation of St. Joseph County house tax records. The location analyzed was bordered by LaSalle Avenue to the north, Hill Street to the east, South Avenue to the south and Taylor Street to the west.

Neal acknowledged that new downtown housing is unaffordable for lots of, basically due to the fact new building anywhere tends to be a lot more high-priced. But he stated downtown’s revitalization would spur new investment decision in far more inexpensive rental housing in neighborhoods “a stone’s throw away” from downtown.

The revitalization “is going to have a quite long-lasting and impactful influence on the metropolis as a whole,” stated Neal, now a companion at Bradley Co., which redeveloped the Hibberd Developing downtown as new apartments. “People like me, 10 a long time ago, would under no circumstances have assumed about investing a solitary greenback in South Bend…If a downtown isn’t eye-catching, it is really really hard for someone from exterior the community to want to invest any time there. That is just the reality.”

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