Ignition Park at the crossroads

Any way you look at it, Ignition Park in South Bend is in a strong strategic position to be the basis for the city’s new technology-based economy. The key, says Ignition Park Director Geri Hathaway, is in the factors that differentiate this technology park from all others.

“There was a strong recognition that we should build on the distinctive strengths of South Bend,” Hathaway says, explaining that the partnership between the City and the University of Notre Dame is one crucial differentiating factor.


“There are tech parks all over the United States and the world that are headed toward the same beacon of innovation,” she says. “Most of them are owned by universities. Ours is a unique situation. We are the only dual-site, state-certified tech park in Indiana, and it benefits greatly from the partnership between the City and the University.”

The partnership creates opportunities to identify innovative research at the University and find ways to use City resources to translate that research into viable commercial enterprises. Hathaway credits Gary Gilot, director of public works for the City, for paying attention to innovative developments at Notre Dame and finding resources within local businesses to commercialize those discoveries to benefit both the City and the University.

“City government itself has become a laboratory for pilot testing new ideas and concepts emerging from cutting-edge University research. This can-do approach has helped to foster an entrepreneurial culture within government and to strengthen partnerships between the public and private sector,” says Mayor Stephen J. Luecke. “We’re building on these relationships to send a signal that South Bend is a city of innovation, where creativity is not limited to the private sector but in which municipal leaders also bring proactive solutions to help our community prosper.”

Available, affordable, reliable power


In addition to this unique partnership, Ignition Park also boasts 200 megawatts of available power — twice the capacity available at the world’s largest data center currently located at Lakeside Technology Park in Chicago.

“We have a feasibility study that tells us that available power is our key differentiator,” Hathaway says. “Industries involved in cloud computing, data centers and other computing operations have extraordinary needs for power. We offer unlimited power at a cost far below that of surrounding states.”

According to Gilot, the coastal region electric rates are 17 cents per kilowatt-hour. In South Bend, the cost is 7 cents per kilowatt-hour and even 5 cents per kilowatt-hour in Ignition Park when purchased at higher distribution voltage.

“That’s a significant reduction,” he says. “With our central location at the hub of the intercontinental fiber network, this is a wonderful location for moving lots of data. We have five times the fiber of Indianapolis. Our last-mile connectivity is really affordable with St. Joe Valley Metronet. Multitenant buildings can share costs for even greater cost savings. At every step, we work with businesses to keep costs affordable.” 

Since power makes up a large share of the cost of doing business for technology-based businesses, South Bend’s affordable power is a key benefit.

“We already had a pretty good power grid,” Gilot says. “A lot of cities would have been satisfied with that. But there are a lot of cities out there that are also-rans because they were satisfied with being good enough. We collaborated with American Electric Power to be even better. We invested $1 million so that Ignition Park’s infrastructure offers unparalleled availability, affordability and reliability. All three are essential.”

Distinctive green solutions

Ignition Park master plan

The design of Ignition Park includes other advantages that offer more long-term benefits. Many of those advantages may be reflected in the next phase of work at the Park.

On Oct. 11, the City’s Redevelopment Commission approved spending $335,000 for the development in Phase 1B of 30-percent engineering and construction designs for the main 84-acre portion of Ignition Park’s 140-acre expanse. Once those designs are completed, third-party pricing estimates would come to the Commission, which could act early in 2012 to invite bids for construction.

The impending design work encompasses key infrastructural elements, including:

  • New roadways connecting from four sides of the site to a center roundabout with pedestrian walks, rain gardens, streetlights and signage.
  • Two pedestrian green boulevards from the center of the site to the northeast and northwest.
  • A storm water-management system, based on the concept of rain water harvesting, including curb turnouts, rain gardens, canals, a retention basin, wells and pumping facilities.
  • Innovative utilities including stand-alone streetlights with solar power cells, and recycling “gray” water. “The streetlights can go for several cloudy days and still work,” Gilot says, who goes on to explain that gray water doesn’t actually look gray. “That’s just the term we use for recyclable water that isn’t potable,” he says, “but is perfectly acceptable for things like water to flush toilets or other nonpotable uses.”  
  • A central plaza with green space and parking.

Makes good economic sense

“We added in the green ecosystem partly because it’s the right thing to do,” Gilot says. “But it also makes good economic sense. You can see the advantages of using a heating system that reduces costs. If you can cut your energy needs, you can build a smaller building, which is less expensive. You can take waste heat off the smart grid and substantially increase your efficiency.”

Design work for Phase 1A of the park’s development, which began in July 2011, includes infrastructure improvements and the sale of a five-acre site for Data Realty LLC, a start-up company based at Innovation Park at Notre Dame.

Data Realty plans to open a world-class Tier III data center serving small to mid-sized businesses, with groundbreaking scheduled to take place sometime in late 2011. The company plans to build a $10-million data center near Transpo’s first-in-the-nation, LEED Platinum-designated transit facility.

A crucial turning point

It seems fitting that the site for Ignition Park is at a spot where four major thoroughfares in South Bend converge on the site of the former Studebaker complex. The location emphasizes the fact that, for many, the latest action by the Redevelopment Commission marks a crucial turning point for the park as demolition wraps up on the final Studebaker buildings in Ignition Park’s footprint.

“For years, we’ve been knocking down dinosaur buildings from the Studebaker era,” says Gilot. “Now we’re carrying the momentum forward. To get to start building something new is very rewarding.”

Publication Date: 
November 2011
Article Type: 
Focus On