East Bank tower in South Bend approaches the finish line

Aerial drone photo of the 300 East mixed use building with multiple cranes working the job site.

East Bank tower in South Bend approaches the finish line

Ed Semmler
South Bend Tribune
SOUTH BEND — While many businesses and people have been struggling to survive the coronavirus pandemic, one of South Bend’s most visible projects has risen out of the ground — a sort of beacon of hope for better days to come.

The 10-story structure — simply called 300 E LaSalle — is now about 65% complete and should be ready for some tenants as early as March or April, said developer David Matthews, who is spearheading the project.

Situated adjacent to the Commerce Center between the East Race and the St. Joseph River, 300 E LaSalle will be the tallest new structure built in the downtown area in decades.

It will contain 144 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, 15,000 to 20,000 square feet of ground level retail space and 15,000 square feet of Class A office space on the fourth floor.

Matthews said leases have been signed for a grocery store in the tower and a pharmacy that will be in the Commerce Center. Those two components were promised in exchange for $5 million in tax-increment finance that the city provided for the $45 million project.

Matthews said the pharmacy could be operating in February or March. Though he didn’t want to provide details on either the pharmacy or grocery store at this point in time, he said he already has signed a couple of residential tenants for the building.

Workers are just turning their attention to finishing the inside of the tower, but that didn’t stop Maureen Sullivan, who currently lives in the Detroit area, from already signing a lease for a two-bedroom, two-bath unit that she hopes to occupy in June.

A one-time resident and a frequent visitor to South Bend, Sullivan decided to move here permanently because most of those she’s close with live in the area. She said she decided to investigate the 300 E LaSalle building after reading about it in the paper.

“To me, it’s ideal,” Sullivan said. “I’ll have parking as well as a grocery store, a pharmacy and a church within walking distance,” she said, referring to St. Joseph Church on Hill Street.

Though now retired, Sullivan said she also was attracted to the building because it offers a wide selection of apartments, meaning it should attract a broad age-range of tenants. “I did not want to move into a senior community,” she explained, adding that she’s also looking forward to walking in the growing East Bank neighborhood.

Matthews said a young couple also has signed a lease for an apartment, which will range from about $1,250 to $3,000 per month depending mostly on size. All units will have garage parking, high-end appliances, granite countertops and tile, but also include a host of community amenities.

“We’re the luxury housing option in downtown,” Matthews said.

Business owners in the East Bank neighborhood also are enthused about the project, as it ultimately will bring well over 200 new residents to the community that has been rapidly expanding with the addition of homes, townhomes, condominiums and apartments in recent years.

“It’s going to benefit everyone with a business in the downtown area,” said Patrick Whitling, a partner at the Hammer & Quill as well as The General Deli & Cafe in the 600 block of Jefferson Boulevard across from Howard Park.

Since business has been dramatically slower during the pandemic, Whitling said progress on the mixed-use building and as well as other projects in the downtown area has served as a sign of hope that there is life beyond COVID-19.

“It’s been nice to watch it going up,” he said.

Santiago Garces, who recently took over as executive director of the Department of Community Investment, said the project will help the ongoing downtown revitalization effort by attracting new residents but it will also provide new amenities to those who work downtown with the addition of a badly needed grocery store and pharmacy.

“This has been a tough year, putting a stress test to a lot of what the city was doing,” said Garces. But the continuation of the Matthews project and others in the downtown area show that the expanding revitalization over the past several years is real — more than a short-term trend.

“I remember a time when there was almost no one downtown outside of normal working hours,” said Garces, who moved here in 2006 to attend the University of Notre Dame. “It’s been remarkable to see the changes that have occurred in less than 10 years.”

Even with the generally positive views toward the building today, it has sparked considerable controversy since it was first proposed several years ago. First, it had to overcome height restrictions in the East Bank neighborhood, and then Matthews had to sign a pledge detailing what was expected in a grocery store before the city released money for the project.

Beyond the $5 million in tax-increment financing from the city, the project also is receiving $4.9 million in state money distributed through the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Development Authority, $31 million in private financing and the remainder from the Matthews-led partnership.

Original South Bend Tribune article.