MISHAWAKA — Twenty years ago, the city offered parcels of property to land developers to usher in economic growth at the former Ball Band/Uniroyal site on the south side of the St. Joseph River.
After demolishing the vestiges of Ball Band, once an economic mainstay, the Redevelopment Commission longed to field bids from those with a vision to build housing and businesses on the riverfront tracts.
But those bids didn't come in.
It would take two decades before luxury apartment builders, business developers — and the city itself — would turn what was once a factory site into a multi-use, riverfront community.
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Ken Prince, executive director of planning and community development, remembers the early days.
"This is the result of more than 15 years of work," Prince said of the multitude of projects that have come and continue coming to the area. "It all is moving in the right direction."
Perhaps the headliner in the downtown Mishawaka construction show is the transformation of the former Liberty Mutual Insurance building into a city services center that will become City Hall, the police station and the Mishawaka Utilities business offices.
The northwest facade of the 93,000-square-foot structure has a two-story glass wall that will be part of a new, 150-seat chamber for city council, while the facade along Main Street will be the utilities "store front." The police department will occupy the south portion of the building.
The project, expected to be completed this fall, will cost $20.5 million.
Ice ribbon - cafe - events center
Construction of a replacement for the old Merrifield Ice Rink at Beutter Park’s Ironworks Plaza began last year.
City leaders said last year bids on the ice ribbon project came in at a tad more than $15 million — nearly $5 million less than the $20.5 million estimate.
To offer winter activities in the park, the ice ribbon will also complement the cafe. And an events center in the building will accommodate groups up to 120 people.
City officials said the tentative completion date may allow ice skating for the 2022-23 winter season.
The Mill at Ironworks Phase II
City leaders are hopeful funding comes through for construction of the second phase of the Mill at Ironworks complex adjacent to Beutter Park along the St. Joseph River. That proposal, which has a total price tag of about $47.6 million, would bring an additional 215 luxury apartments to the rapidly developing riverfront area.
When The Mill opened its first phase in the fall of 2019, the apartments filled up. City officials say it has attracted residents from outside the region, with some estimates of up to 30% of the residents there coming from other areas.
All eyes are on the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative or READI program, that will allow for the sharing of up $50 million for area projects. The area’s Regional Development Authority will evaluate some 200 proposals for brick-and-mortar projects and programs, one of them being The Mill Phase II.
A decision is expected later this year.
Beacon medical clinic
Beacon Health System plans to take down the existing building at Lincoln Way East and Church Street south of the utilities structure it has purchased for a medical clinic with labs. This initial phase calls for a 16,500-square-foot facility to be completed this year with a $12.5 million price tag.
Diane Maas, chief strategy & digital officer for Beacon, said demolition of the former bank building on the southwest corner of Church and Lincoln Way will begin in February.
The clinic will have imaging services, primary care doctor offices and medical specialty services.
"This is definitely a growing market," Mass said of Mishawaka. "With many more people here, there is a greater need for health care."
Maas said the project means Beacon will have fulfilled a decade-long search in downtown Mishawaka for a location for a clinic.
In phase 2, the current Mishawaka Utilities building will be razed for another 15,000-square-foot annex to the clinic. Maas said health market conditions will determine what that building will house in the future.
Other downtown projects
Other formerly announced downtown projects, though not begun, also stand to change the local landscape if they become reality:
• The city has a development agreement for an upscale hotel plan with the Barak Group for land east of the Main Street Bridge. A $2 million race relocation project paid for by the city has prepared the property for a hotel.
• There also is a development agreement for a plan for a 100-unit apartment building on property at Front and Spring streets near the traffic circle at Beutter Park.
Not just downtown...
Areas away from downtown Mishawaka are also seeing business development.
Regional athletics facility
Mishawaka is undertaking the development of a proposed athletic facility for the area off of Douglas Road on Veterans Parkway to serve as a regional draw for a variety of sports tournaments and activities.
Plans call for a 350,000-square-foot indoor athletic facility at an estimated price tag of $50 million that would include eight courts that would be used for volleyball and basketball and two turf fields that could be used for indoor soccer, baseball and other activities.
Prince said financing for the facility still is being explored. The project has sought READI funding as part of its cost structure.
Juday Creek wellfield and water treatment plant
The project off of Douglas Road would build five wells with a 24,000-square-foot treatment plant and a 500,000-gallon water storage tank to service the University Park pressure district with water and treatment capabilities.
Officials say the project would allow the existing water treatment plants to be taken offline for rehabilitation.
McKinley Commons improvements
Construction is nearing completion on John's Car Wash being built at Grape Road and McKinley Avenue. Plans also call for construction of Smoothie King facility just north of the car wash, while a three-tenant building just west of John's has received preliminary approval from city planners.
John's could be open by the end of January. Company officials told The Tribune it is waiting on some equipment before it can open.
University Marketplace development
The former Tequilas Jalisco restaurant building at Cleveland Road and Indiana 23 will be razed for a three-story self-storage business and a drive-thru restaurant. C. Brody Glenn, representing Centennial American Properties, said the $10 million development would bring the three-story self storage business to the back of the 2.25-acre property, with a yet-to-be-determined drive-thru restaurant to be built on the land closest to Cleveland Road.
Autumn Ridge subdivision
The city last year approved an extension of Autumn Ridge Subdivision to the north of Fulmer Road. The new phase would consist of about 35 new single-family homes, as well as a significant portion of land to remain undeveloped as retention and buffer.
Lincoln Way East-Capital Avenue facelift
The Capital Avenue/Indiana 933 (Lincoln Way East) corridor is expected to see a new hotel development and two new restaurants, as well as updates to the road near the intersection.
The Mishawaka Inn property on the north side of Lincoln Way East would be transformed by a national hotel chain-local development partnership.
Also, a new Dunkin' Donuts restaurant is being planned for the north side of Lincoln Way East, between the hotel and the strip mall that includes an Auto Zone store.
And the owners of the former Pizza Hut property on the south side of Lincoln Way East have secured rezoning for an unnamed fast-food restaurant. Plans are for the current building to be razed, the main entrance to the new restaurant to be off of Mariellen Avenue, not Lincoln Way, and for construction of a new building for the restaurant.
Developers failed to publicly name the restaurant chain.
Preliminary grounds work has started at the Dunkin' Donuts site, but work has yet to begin on the former Pizza Hut property.
Tesla bows out
Despite getting council approval in July for an "electric car company" showroom and automotive center — long-rumored to be Tesla — at the former JC Penney Home Store site at Grape and Cleveland roads, developers have confirmed the project appears to be dead.
Chris Sotos, representing Key Development Partners, the firm developing the project, confirmed last week the contract with the electric car company — which was never officially named — was terminated this past summer. He did not provide any other details.
The car company had proposed leasing the 35,500-square-foot JC Penney building from Key Development, and razing the smaller building to the west.
Ken Prince, director of city planning and community development, said he had heard rumors that the deal had fallen through, but it likely had more to do with Tesla's current expansion plans than any issues with the site.
Email South Bend Tribune reporter Greg Swiercz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Mishawaka economic development advancing in downtown, other regions