‘Portage Place’ to fill old Ward Bakery in South Bend’s Near Northwest Neighborhood

NOW: ‘Portage Place’ to fill old Ward Bakery in South Bend’s Near Northwest Neighborhood

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- The old Ward Bakery in South Bend’s Near Northwest Neighborhood (NNN) will soon be “Portage Place,” a multi-use facility with roughly 50 independent spaces for small businesses.

The building, located on Portage Avenue between California and Rex, is 56,000 square feet, and partners hope to open it by spring of next year.

The NNN is a hotspot for recent economic development.

“It’s just been amazing to see this neighborhood just come up and come together,” said Ja’lila Newbill, a resident for most of her life. “We really didn’t have any of these businesses that are here now. I just love seeing that. It just brings community. I’ve met so many of my neighbors just having this coffee shop and I really love that.”

Recent developments include The Portage Collective.

The co-op brings together multiple small businesses under one roof, a model used more and more locally and nationally.

“We’re all women-owned businesses, we’re all independent,” said member-owner, Annie Johnson. “I think [economic development is] a really key part of all of South Bend. We need retail. We especially want independent retailers because it adds more value to your community, to have unique places where you can go, where you’re supporting your local makers, keeping the money in our neighborhoods.”

The man who brought The Portage Collective to life is also spearheading the Portage Place project, Mike Keen, president of The Bakery Group LLC. Keen also lives in the neighborhood.

“There’s an amazing capacity and abundance of the people who live in our neighborhoods,” he said. “And so the idea is to help identify that abundance and support, that abundance so folks can be able to develop their own businesses, their own neighborhood.”

Keen says he bought the building from the county with other partners for “practically nothing,” maybe one or two thousand dollars.

“Sometimes free is too much,” he said.

The full renovation, he said, will cost roughly $5 million, so they will open the business in phases to generate revenue for future phases.

“We’re looking to recreate the commercial node that used to exist in this neighborhood 20 years ago,” Keen said. “So we’re looking for some retail, some office. Barber, beauty shop, tax accountant, insurance agent, we’ve also got room for some artist space. We’d love to see a café, perhaps, or a bakery, a little pizza place on the corner.”

The facility will also be a co-working space.

“We want to be cautious of not gentrifying the area,” Johnson said, “by increasing the rental prices for residents and the mortgage prices. But I think adding retail that you can walk to and workplaces that you can walk to can only benefit the neighborhood.”

“We call it ‘gentle-fication’,” Keen said, “and the idea is you get the people who are in the neighborhood to be able to be the ones to be part of the process.”

To get involved, contact Mike Keen at (574) 514-2096.

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