New Downtown South Bend condos will be announced soon

by Nick Molnar on February 13, 2010

Watch for an announcement regarding a new condo project in South Bends’ downtown to hit the news stations in about a week. I’ll review the details here as soon as they solidify. But before we start talking about floorplans and finishes, let’s try an open discussion:

What will it take for downtown condos to succeed in South Bend?

  • Do they need a certain location – for example on the river or on Michigan Avenue?
  • Will it require a specific feature: an attached garage, a balcony with a view, common greenspace, or something else?
  • Should they be newly built, or in a rehabbed historic building?
  • Will they need to be ultra luxury or surprisingly affordable?
  • What would it take to get you to buy one, or to recommend one to a client or friend?
  • Is there anything else you would suggest or say to the developer, if he is reading the comments?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracy February 13, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I think the number one consideration should be price! Simply put, make it affordable or the project tanks. Downtown is not a shopping or entertainment mecca so the initial draw has to be affordable housing options. Build decent condos (either brand new or rehabbed – makes no difference in my book) but offer them at a price a young professional can afford (mid 100s). It will not draw on the ND crowd so don’t try for the luxury finishes of granite, jacuzzi tubs etc. Garage options would be a big plus but as long as there is some sort of parking dedicated to the units, I think it would be OK. Good luck to the developer.
It’s often hard to define what should come first – the chicken or the egg – the housing or the shopping (groceries) to sustain it. If DTSB wants to be successful, they should study Downtown Indianapolis’s highly successful revitalization efforts in the mid 90s. I began working in one of the downtown highrises in 1994 and left in 2002. During that time, downtown at 5:00pm went from a scary, walk-quickly-to-your-car, ghost town to a bustling, exciting, entertainment-filled area with numerous fantastic housing options. I don’t expect (or even want) SB to model Indy entirely. But if they’re serious, they should study Indy and try to mimic it on a small scale. It is possible. They just have to be smart about it. And that includes this latest developer. If they want to be the ones to bust through the sea of dead project starts, don’t think that a high luxury project is going to be the one to do it. The pioneer project just might need to be the break even project that gets the area started. After that success, other successful and more financially rewarding projects will follow.

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Irish Eyes February 13, 2010 at 1:18 pm

“Will they need to be ultra luxury or surprisingly affordable?”
– Surprisingly affordable is the way to go, especially if there are at least a fairly large number of units. In this market, why not just make them rentals?
—–
Tracy – Housing comes first, then businesses. The old saying in commercial real estate is you don’t invest until there is a certain number of rooftops in the area. Business investment follow the population…
—–
Best wishes to the developer.

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K February 14, 2010 at 2:52 am

I would LOVE to see affordable condos in the area. I think there are a lot of people (like myself) who would LOVE a NEW condo option that is still within my price range. I don’t care if the bank says I can “afford” a $300,000 option. I DON’T WANT TO SPEND THAT MUCH! I would love to see a development of TOWNHOMES with 2-4 beds, 1.5-2.5 baths and parking that could go for under $150,000. It HAS been done in other cities with quality construction. However, DON’t put in anything other than Base model materials. If people around here are willing to purchase new construction homes with vinyl floors and formica, than I have a feeling that people would be willing to “settle” for the same finishes in a downtown condo. I know I would, as would many of my friends. We never went to the whole higher end ND condo concept because none of us could get approved for a 3-400 thousand dollar mortgage. Lower that to reasonable standards, however… a LOT of young professionals in the area could get the type of condo I just mentioned with a $45-50,000 a year income.

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Irish Eyes February 14, 2010 at 11:37 am

K – Keenan Court has their condos listed for $149,900 now, you could offer even less. A decent product but probably a dead development beyond what they already have in the ground. Do your research though first! Also, North Douglas Condos probably will have a “fire sale” too. Beyond that or some other distressed situation, a 4 bed, 2.5 bath condo for under $150K probably is not realistic, at least in new construction given the costs of construction.

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Jon February 15, 2010 at 10:00 am

I certainly agree that “surprisingly affordable” is a critical element to the development’s success. We have seen in the past, the higher priced projects do not seem to go over well. Granted, there are a lot of reasons such as lack of amenities, location, etc. Depending on the new development a higher price may be acceptable. The one thing I personally find to be most important is the location/access to cafes, restaurants, and specifically a grocery/pharmacy. I think the singular most important aspect to creating a highly successful residential development in South Bend is to incorporate a new, small grocery concept to the city. If a developer were able to utilize the ground floor space for a grocery and restaurants, I think it would have an enormous impact on the demand for residential units.

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Outside the Box February 15, 2010 at 11:13 am

Garages, security and amenities will be crucial and the project must be East of Main St. In a buyer’s market, amenities and convenience will drive sales. Again, there is a huge value gap right now between new construction and existing product so the developer must deliver immediate convenience. I think the Ivy Quad units would be a great example of everyday livability and quality but for the single stall garages.

If you want great amenities with laminate counters in the kitchen, check out the apartments at Eddy Commons.

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Irish Eyes February 15, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Outside the Box – For Ivy Quad, I really really like the brick and stone work…very classic. But I don’t like the garage setup, the stairs, stairs, and more stairs, and the unit density will be in issue once (if) the project is completed. Price point is high too. I compliment the architect in designing something unique given the density challenges + topography of the site.

I am wondering if this possible new development is on the river or will have river views? That would be helpful but apparently didn’t jumpstart things in Mishawaka on the north bank. It really comes down to price, price, and price especially given the return to traditional lending standards and that mortgage availability may decrease as the fed stops buying MBS (they are currently really the only buyers of this stuff now)….without being able to pass on the mortgages the lend and hold model is back and banks will be conservative when lending.

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npmolnar February 15, 2010 at 9:21 pm

River views are a safe bet.
Specifics should be available on the 19th.

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Irish Eyes February 16, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Drum roll…….probably that vacant lot space downtown on the other side of the Marriott? Townhomes were proposed for there before. Somehow I think it won’t be a resurrection of the former Gameday site. I guess we will find out on the 19th!

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K February 17, 2010 at 12:13 am

Thanks, Irish Eyes. Keenan Court are nice, but the whole concept is just a bit weird. From the location in the middle of an (albeit fairly nice) 1950’s subdivision to the size of the community to the feel of the place, I just never felt really comfortable with Keenan Court. North Douglas, nice finishes and all, still feel like apartments. While they are/were affordable (whatever the status of them should happen to be as of now,) a lot of us would rather have the feel of a high-rise or townhome. I just couldn’t get over the fact that they felt so much like an apartment. Perhaps that is what they should have been in the first place. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if the condos were in a renovated historic building, provided we could have dedicated parking. Outdoor space (balcony, patio, small courtyard) would also be a good idea. I don’t need granite countertops, marble floors, etc. I can always add those things myself if I so desire.

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Kathy Reddy White February 20, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Affordable condo’s is a must. But you seriously lack destination shopping and things to do. So how do you attract people when it’s fairly boring and there’s no grocery? I constantly have people from out of town come into my gallery and ask where the rest of the shops are. I tell them about Chocolate Cafe, The Vine etc. They all say “No, we know about that. We want this. Cool small shops. A college town. Why isn’t anything here?”

I don’t know how we can possibly have empty lots on the river in the center of downtown. Building there should be a no-brainer if you build with architectural integrity. I have no trouble filling my apartments or retail spaces. at 528 East Colfax Ave. In fact, I have waiting lists. If you can actually find a cool building that’s still standing, you’ll have interest. Let’s fill these empty lots. They are really detrimental – it’s has a bombed out look to an area that could be very cool – the East Bank Village.

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