SOUTH BEND — Mark Neal looks out at the sizable lot Hibberd Development recently acquired at Western Avenue and Main Street and sees what could be.
On the lot where a small one-story building currently sits, Neal envisions a multiuse building that could be built there in a couple of years — hopefully, bringing more residents and businesses to the downtown core.
“We initially were attracted to the project because we were interested in saving and restoring a beautiful, historic building,” said Neal, while sitting in a trendy conference room at Epoch Architecture + Design on the first floor of the Hibberd. “But as we got into it, we realized we could develop an entire corner that could become a key piece in the ongoing revitalization of downtown.”
Just a block to the west of the Hibberd, construction workers are just a few months from completing a 121-unit apartment complex — called the Ivy at Berlin Place — that wraps around Four Winds Field and provides views of the field from balconies and rooftop terraces.
And just across Western from the apartments, Cressy Commercial Real Estate is operating an office building and urban storage operation while city officials are still working to resolve a lawsuit with Granger’s Bare Hands Brewery about plans to open a brewery in the former Gates service center just west of the office building.
What all of those properties have in common is they are located on land that was once the site of Gates Automotive, which recently left the last of its downtown holdings when it moved its used car operation to Elkhart.
The Toyota business, which is now the Cressy office building, moved in 2008 to a new spot along Ireland Road near U.S. 31 and the U.S. 20 Bypass on the south side of South Bend. The Chevy store, which occupied a former Sears store across Western, combined with an existing Gates Chevy World store in Mishawaka.
Though Gates left a service center and a used car operation behind, there was concern the move would cause additional economic erosion in the downtown area.
“The business was doing well, but you could see a gradual decline,” Matt Helmkamp, president of Gates Chevy World, said of the decision. “We didn’t want to be seen as leaving South Bend, but we wanted to make sure the business would continue to thrive and survive.”