An inside look into the Howard Park redevelopment project

NOW: An inside look into the Howard Park redevelopment project


SOUTH BEND, Ind.—At nearly 12 acres in size, South Bend’s first park, Howard Park, stands as one of the city’s largest riverfront parks.

Last fall marked the start of a new life for the park, as outdated equipment and structures were removed to pave way for the park’s new look.

Since then, crews have been hard at work, transforming South Bend’s first park into South Bend’s most innovative park, located on the east side of the St. Joseph River near the city’s downtown area.

Aaron Perri, the Executive Director of South Bend Venues, Parks and Arts says that despite weather, construction on the park has remained both on time and on budget.

“We started last fall and the contractors were out here all fall, they were out here in the polar vortex, they were out here in the rainiest spring you’ve seen in the state of Indiana, and now they’re out here in the blazing heat of the summer,” Perri said. “I’ve been really impressed with their tenacity and their talent.”

Photos: Construction crews working at Howard Park on July 16.

Once completed, the park will feature a new plaza, recreation center, interactive water fountains, ice skating trail, children’s play area, athletic fields, café, event spaces, river walk and memorial landscape, among other amenities.

The children’s play area will feature about 75% of ADA accessible playground equipment.

“We think this is going to be a huge catalyst for the entire community,” Perri said.

The ice skating trail is one of only two of its kind in the country, with the other being at Maggie Daley Park in Chicago. The trail in Howard Park will feature a bridge; something that he says is unlike anything else in existence.

Perri says a local entrepreneur is in talks to operate the café on the park’s property. More information on the park's future restaurant will be available in August.

Photos: Designs of Howard Park from South Bend's Venues Parks and Arts 

Photo courtesy SBVPA

Photo courtesy SBVPA

Photo courtesy SBVPA

While the project is completely funded, Perri says they’ve entered the final stage of fundraising to complete the park’s details.

“We still have to do a lot of things like buy ice skates and buy a Zamboni machine and the landscaping and all of those kinds of furniture, fixture, finishing type things and so we’re looking for community partners to step up and invest in this park,” Perri said.

Families and groups can even purchase bricks that will go into the walkways of the park.

Perri hopes that once completed, every member of the community will be able to find a home at the park.

“Everything that’s here was a dream or vision of somebody in the community, so that’s what is really rewarding about this, this wasn’t just something we sat in our offices and dreamed up, the community has really craved this and their finger prints are all over this,” Perri said.

The new Howard Park is set to open in November 2019.

A breath of fresh air

The renovations at Howard Park require a significant amount of tree removal.

To avoid flooding concerns, planners decided to completely raise the park. 

“We raised the entire park about five feet. This park was susceptible to flooding and flood damage, and so we wanted to make sure it was accessible in all four seasons and that the trails were open and that flooding didn’t become an issue in the park. By nature of raising the park, we did have to eliminate some trees,” Perri said.

However, Perri says that by the end of the project, there will be a lot more greenery in the park than when they started.

“There’s going to be about 360% more trees in the new Howard Park,” Perri said.

South Bend has been a certified Tree City USA for the last 22 years.

Click here to learn more about the Howard Park redevelopment project.

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