City of South Bend Launches Vacant Building Credit Enhancement Fund

NOW: City of South Bend Launches Vacant Building Credit Enhancement Fund

The City of South Bend is launching a new program to revitalize vacant buildings seen across the city.

Its “Vacant Building Credit Enhancement Fund” will provide loans up to $500,000 to small-scale developers focused on rehabilitating commercial buildings across the city.

South Bend Mayor James Mueller, along with other local leaders and small developers like Jennifer Henecke from Penny Hill Properties, made the announcement Monday afternoon from a building that has been vacant since the 1990s on Michigan Street in South Bend’s downtown.

The space once served as Sears, and then Inwoods.

This announcement marked the start of its redevelopment, and the City hopes it will serve as a model for other dormant properties throughout the city using $1.5 million from the American Rescue Plan to find the program. They hope that funding will serve as a revolving door for those who need it.

Where many see chipped paint, crumbling floors, and caving ceilings, Jennifer Henecke and her partner, Sarah Hill, see potential.

"When you look at a space like this, we know that we have organizations and people that will help," she said. "Like the city for example. We really want to make this a destination people can come to and it’s going to take a long time.

South Bend’s new Vacant Building Credit Enhancement Fund is meant to fill the gap for financing loans banks might not consider due to the high risk involved with these sorts of properties.

"So to see new life in this building is invaluable, not just to this building and what will go in next, but the rest of the neighborhood,” said Mayor Mueller

“We're all excited to see the growth of the tenants in adjacent store fronts, but as we can see there’s a lot of work to do," added Caleb Bauer, the City's Executive Director of Community Development.

The hope is to preserve other historic buildings already in South Bend, especially in main business corridors like Michigan Street, and bring them new life after they were left devastated by the decades long population decrease.

Loans can provide up to 40% of the total project costs.

So while the space may not look like much now, Penny Hill properties told ABC57 they have a vision to for a vibrant, walkable, and artsy Michigan Street, taking one step at a time to get there.

They have already transformed a number of once vacant spaces on the block, because to them, “Storefronts are where dreams come true”.

To assist in administering the program, the City has partnered with the Business Development Corporation (BDC), a designated Priority Certified Development Company by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

To learn more about the Vacant Building Credit Enhancement Fund, visit the city or the BDC's website or call 311.

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