South Bend Common Council Approves Tax Abatements For Ward Bakery Building Redevelopment
The South Bend Common Council has approved two tax abatements as part of an ongoing project to redevelop the old Ward Bakery Building in the city’s Near Northwest Neighborhood.
The Bakery Group LLC purchased the long vacant building from tax arrears earlier this year and is redeveloping it into a commercial space with 60 units for rent.
And on June 14, the South Bend Common Council voted unanimously to grant the company a four-year abatement on property taxes and a separate two-year abatement on vacant building taxes.
Bakery Group president Mike Keen said that will help with the company’s cash flow as they redevelop the building and start renting it out.
“Having a tax abatement helps reduce a little bit the monthly fees you’ve got to come up with in those first couple years that you’re trying to make the building work,” Keen said. “It does not by any means cover the whole, it’s a very small percentage. But it does help around the edges.”
The Ward Bakery building was originally built in 1908 with additions added in 1919 and 1944. It’s currently 56,000 square feet of empty space — but that’s an improvement.
“This thing was not just a gut — it was an abandoned, deteriorated building,” Keen said. “When we came in here, it was just full of junk. You could not move. And so we spent $50,000 and 25 forty-yard dumpsters just cleaning the place out.”
The group hopes to finish the project by early next year, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“We’ve taken care of the asbestos. We’ve got to finish the roof, put in the windows and doors — that’s going to make one of the biggest differences,” Keen said. “We’re going to have to get plumbing, get in the electrical, get in the gas, put in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems, and put in all the bathrooms.”
Keen envisions the property as a sort of community hub and collaborative village. They haven’t signed any pre-leases yet, but are in talks with a mix of businesses including artist studios, offices, restaurants, small retail shops, commercial photographers and light manufacturing.
Units will range from 2,00 to 2,000 square feet, with rents starting at $350 a month for the smallest units and ranging up to over $2,000 a month for the largest ones.
Before the Bakery Group purchased the building, the Near Northwest Neighborhood group tried six times in the past six years to get highly competitive tax credits to turn the building into affordable housing.
They did not succeed, but executive director Kathy Schuth says they support the redevelopment.
“The building has been vacant for over a decade, and has been slowly deteriorating,” Schuth said in an email. “So to have a locally based partnership finding a way to move a project forward that will fill the building with small businesses? I’ve only heard positive reactions.”
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