South Bend Heritage Foundation shares its resources for revitalization

When South Bend received a Gold Award for Municipal Excellence from the National League of Cities this month, it was due in large part to the role of the South Bend Heritage Foundation in revitalizing the city’s Northeast Neighborhood.

But this sort of success is nothing new to the Foundation.

IU South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center

In 2002, South Bend Heritage Foundation shared with the City of South Bend in another Gold Award for Municipal Excellence from the National League of Cities, that time for the Near West Side Neighborhood Revitalization.

For more than 35 years, the South Bend Heritage Foundation has revitalized inner-city neighborhoods in St. Joseph County through careful planning and development, community advocacy and education.

Since 1974 the Foundation has invested about $121 million in residential and commercial projects. It owns and manages 280 rental units and 180,000 square feet of commercial, cultural and educational space. Every year SBHF also builds or rehabilitates five single-family homes.

“South Bend Heritage Foundation has diligently worked in some of the most distressed neighborhoods in the city,” says Marcia I. Jones, president of SBHF’s board of directors. “More people are choosing to live and work in these neighborhoods where, only a few decades ago, populations were in decline. Today, residents from diverse cultural and social backgrounds are living together in what are now neighborhoods of choice.”

The Studebaker National Museum Archives

Major projects over the years include Bendix Family Physicians clinic, Studebaker National Museum Archives, Robertson’s (92-unit senior housing), Northside Terrace (45-unit complex), Chapin Market, and Marycrest-Singer-Hammes Office Building. Eighty homes were remodeled in 2010 — 65 units in the West Washington Neighborhood and 15 century-old homes in Historic Dunbar Corners. The Natatorium, historically a segregated swimming facility, was also rehabbed into the Indiana University South Bend Civil Right Heritage Center.

“By remodeling homes in lower-income areas, we can improve the quality of life and productivity in these neighborhoods, which benefits everyone in South Bend,” says outgoing SBHF Executive Director Phil Byrd.

Gladys Muhammad, associate director of the South Bend Heritage Foundation

In addition to Byrd, Associate Director Gladys Muhammad plays a key role on the Foundation’s leadership team.

Since 1987, Muhammad has been a driving force in conceiving and directing the Foundation’s important neighborhood outreach programs, including youth development activities and anti-drug campaigns.

SBHF also serves the Near Northeast Revitalization Organization (NNRO), a five-partner collaborative redevelopment effort led by the City of South Bend, which earned the aforementioned award from the NLC this month. (See related story.)

SBHF does more than just develop property — it also advocates for arts and cultural programs, education, and other community issues.

The Foundation’s 25-member board consists of neighborhood residents and professionals who work hard to create an environment of collaboration that embraces diversity.

“We strive for consensus-building and bring residents into that process at the very beginning,” says Byrd. “Feedback from residents is essential for informed decision-making. Nobody knows their neighborhoods better than they do, and their insights are invaluable.”

Publication Date: 
December 2010
Article Type: 
Feature