Creating Community by Kathy Schuth

“A new neighbor is moving in and seeks help with some heavy items.”

“Who can help me find out who to talk to about the helicopter flying over the no fly zone at 3 in the morning?”

“Come this Saturday to the Garden Walk, showcasing 9 neighborhood gardens”

“There’s a property petitioning for rezoning on Lincolnway to put in a convenience store and gas station; come speak out against or show your support.”

“Thanks for looking out, everyone – the cat has come home!”

“Adopt-a-Block Neighborhood Trash Pick-up is this Saturday. Donuts at eight!”

There’s an energetic vibe in the air. Excitement even. Words come to mind that seem somehow seem to be in the middle of being dusted off: neighborhood, community. These are words that started off in the collective memory of so many as Mr. Roger’s world of make-believe, but not translating to the reality of what our lifestyle was actually like. We discovered that there was a world out there that didn’t actually value those things, but rather valued the individual, and commodity, and not talking to strangers.

But now the words are the same words that are the catch phrases being passed word-of-mouth. Neighborhood. Community. It’s happening. It’s not perfect. But you might just feel at home in this imperfect here.

I’ve lived in the Near Northwest Neighborhood in South Bend (the area flanking Portage Ave on both sides as it runs between Lincolnway and Diamond/Angela) for ten years. When I bought my house, I chose the one that needed some elbow grease (figuring no matter how clumsy I was with it, my neighbors would appreciate some improvement). It’s surrounded on three sides by other houses. One, apparently, Knute Rockne lived in at some point and was rented out. One was empty, but completely remodeled, undergoing a foreclosure. The third was mostly vacant, but rented out from time to time to neighbors who didn’t seem to understand that if they tied their large dog to a tree that was on the line between our properties (the one without a fence), the dog could actually live in my yard too.

NNN2 Within five years, all of those houses were filled. In fact, while I thought the neighborhood as a whole was really great when I moved in – each year it was clear that more and more people were moving in.

Some might begin to question at this point – doesn’t that mean that people were moving out?

Of course, sometimes, that was the case. But often, people were moving into places that were providing new opportunities. Places that others had walked away from (in the case of many out of town investors), and it turned out, places that often had been reclaimed by a local Community Development Corporation – the Near Northwest Neighborhood, Inc. (NNN).

I got involved in the NNN, Inc. about nine years ago, matching up my interest in neighborhood rebuilding and my interest as an architect. This all happened at the same time I moved into the neighborhood. I have to admit, I hadn’t experienced anything like it. I used to work for an urban design firm and work with CDCs, and other development type group. I knew that the NNN was a legitimate player, renovating multiple houses a year to impeccable design standards. But what I’d never seen before was an organization doing this sort of work that was also focused on doing some of the equally difficult (and rewarding) work of community building. Neighborhood re-building and community re-building. Not one without the other.

This is where I want to admit that I started writing this blog post about nine months ago. And since then, the ending of this post needed to change in a pretty significant way – significant to me at the least: the Executive Director of the NNN, Karen Ainsley, after 13 years of very successfully running and growing the NNN, Inc. decided it was time to explore a new challenge. And that opened the door for me to consider doing exactly the same thing. So nine months after starting to write this piece (I’m not usually this tardy) – I chose to apply for the position, and was hired as the new Executive Director of the organization. So now it’s very much my passion and job to keep the focus on neighborhood AND community re-building. Not one without the other, and not one of us without each other.



Please come visit us over on 1007 Portage Ave at our offices, or visit our website:

The Near Northwest Neighborhood, Inc. (NNN) is a community development corporation (CDC) that works in the near northwest neighborhood ofSouth Bend, Indiana. To ensure the lasting success of our community the NNN positively impacts housing, organizes neighbors, and promotes our neighborhood. To that end, we invest our financial and human resources in the lives of our neighbors.

After a full rehabilitation, our houses become available for sale for those who intend to occupy the home (our houses can not become rental properties) and income qualify according to federal guidelines. We think it’s exceptional housing, in a dynamic neighborhood, at a really affordable price. We currently have one home for sale, at 917 Lindsey Ave, and we anticipate two more houses becoming available in April 2015.

If you don’t think of us any other time of year, put October 25 on your calendar for our annual Arts Cafe!



30 Seconds to Entrepreneurialism

Hello, my name is Alex Sejdinaj (pronounced say-din-eye).

I am a South Bend native. I grew up here. Life, in it’s many twists and turns, led me away and has now brought me back to the city in which I grew up. During my time away I had the opportunity to spend 4 years in Nashville, TN working and learning along side some fantastic Entrepreneurs in a city that is constantly ranked near the top of the same field.

The energy was amazing. There was a real sense of community and collaboration. People fed off of the success of others, and were generally willing to help one and other out. This made the entrepreneurial path from concept to completion a lot easier. There were a lot of resources readily available for someone who had a legitimate idea.

I think that South Bend is primed for all of these things. We seem to have a lot of motivated and excited people who are creative and innovative. And we definitely seem to have people who want to make a difference. There are groups who are doing things like Ignite Michiana, 3 Degrees of Separation, Hack Michiana and many more. We have maker spaces popping up all across the map. There are even people in the City now with titles like “Chief Innovation Officer”. South Bend seems to be getting more innovative and creative, and a lot of the people here seem to be looking for ways to expand upon that.

Three Degrees meeting with the Birdsell Project
Three Degrees meeting with the Birdsell Project

Enter the 30 Second Pitch Competition sponsored by 3 Degrees of Separation. This is an easy way for someone with an idea to go out into a supportive environment (with great beer and great people) and get some feedback on an idea. You have the chance to meet someone who can help you bring an idea to life. You have the chance to get someone interested in something they had never considered before. You have the chance to meet other people who have walked the road from concept to completion with real life experience. The bottom line is you can’t sit in your basement holding on to your idea for the next great thing and expect it to come to fruition. You have to get out there and talk to people and make it happen.

Hack Michiana at the Branch


Wednesday, February 25 at 6:00pm at the South Bend Brew Werks


What are they building in there? by Myles Robertson

The Birdsell Project

It’s been nearly two months since The Birdsell Project’s first visual arts show opened. It’s focus, site-specific installation art.  In that time nearly 1700 people have entered its massive, quarter-sawn oak doors.  Some for the art, some for parties, some to view the mansion.  Now it’s time to close…this show, but not the doors.

The Birdsell Project seeks to revitalize once abandoned spaces by opening them to artists and the community. That means putting a little time in. Talking to A LOT of people, brainstorming, dreaming, maybe crying….learning.

We first entered the space in September 2014. Since then we’ve had  nearly 3000 people through the once vacant mansion. Though success can’t be measured strictly in numbers, it’s a good start.  But just a start. There are still mountains of obstacles to traverse, many of which we haven’t begun to see.  I think that’s part of the intrigue. The learning curve is steep and as a result each day is eye-opening.

birdsell.045We’ve got some big plans in the works, and though I don’t want to reveal everything here, I will says this: We will remain in the mansion for at least another six months.

This is where I attempt to persuade you to come to our Closing Reception held on Friday, February 13th. Though we’re planning our next chapter, we still need to make sure this one ends in such a way as to dovetail into it.

I could tell you what I think about the exhibit and what it means to me, but instead, I offer words from others, their thoughts on what The Birdsell Project offers. To you. To the community. To art.

The responses below are from members of our community. They are parents, teachers, artists, farmers, professors, students, all of the above and more. They are people that have been to the exhibit and attended our events. They are from people I’ve met at least once, some as a result of The Birdsell Project’s existence. As a result, they may be biased. In any event, take a look at what they had to say and consider investing $10 in what we’re doing by purchasing a ticket to the closing. Yes, it’s an investment. Possibly one of high-social impact. If you have any questions, let us know.

*The Closing Reception will include food and wine as well as live music by Amateur Hour*

Pura Vida,

-Myles Robertson

The Birdsell Project



“Sophisticated. Hip. Urban.”

“Guerilla artfare.”



“The first exhibit at Birdsell was Radical.”

“The perfect blend of urban decay and progressive art.”

“The best art installation I’ve seen in the entire state.

” The Birdsell Project is a thought-provoking collection of work worthy of a significant urban metropolis.”

” Some pieces remind a person (happily) of folk art, taking objects found in our daily lives and forming sometimes grotesque, sometimes subtly beautiful invitations to reflect on and question our world and ourselves. ”

” The exhibit was intimate and left a lot to the viewer’s imagination for interpretation”

” A great display of talent located in the city of South Bend!”

” A unique, new experience that has been a lot of fun!”

” The Birdsell Project has breathed new life into the regional art scene, establishing South Bend as the place to watch”

” Pretty amazing!!! Love the building….”

”  The Birdsell Project juxtaposes the greatness of South Bend’s past, as evidenced by the expansive but decaying mansion that houses the project, with the bold, innovative, and creative art work of people that are living in our city that are not afraid to live in the now.”

” A great example of community partnership at its best”

” The Birdsell can not be justified with a couple of words, you have to see it to be amazed like my family was! (sorry I ended with was and I know that is wrong – but I am not good with the words)”

birdsell.022” Crumbletastic?”

” Art and atmosphere.
Room to a view.
Cultural nourishment.
Artisan Alley
The Art House of South Bend.
A surprise at every turn.”


” Hard to believe it’s something in South Bend”

” The Birdsell project contained a variety of intriguing art forms in all mediums that kept the viewer interested and left to his/her own interpretation. Each room held a new artistic experience.”

“The Birdsell has been so enriched with creative energy that I believe it has become a sort of living organism. Don’t kill it!”

” An undiscovered treasure that is literally being brought back to life by talented local artists! A must see!”

” Art isn’t a question of external quality but one of internal content! #loveNAKED”

” Art. History.”

” It was only a dream of anyone who passed it. Until it became a thing of reality which surpassed it.”

” Creative use of space and time.”

” Holes.”

” The South Bend region needs to support projects like the Birdsell in order to thrive over the next several decades. In other words: look people, South Bend needs to support stuff like this if it wants to be a place where people want to be. Which we need to be if we want to continuing being….”

“If you missed the Birdsell art Exhibit this January, you missed one of the coolest events the city has seen in years.”

” At the nexus of South Bend’s history and its future lives the Birdsell Project, a vibrant metaphor of the city’s rebirth.”

” Art grows out of and into all the imperfect and emerging spaces of our lives. Relish it!”

“Inspired and inspiring.”

” A labyrinth of freshness..”


National Mentoring Month by Gavin Ferlic

Without a doubt, the decision to become a mentor has been one of the most impactful choices of my life, and I use the word impactful in the most positive way possible.  Although the personal rewards have been meaningful (whether defined by personal growth or recognition), I think the reason I am so fulfilled by the experience is the measurable influence that I have had on another’s life.

U.S. Department of Justice Research shows that youth are five times more likely to graduate from high school if they have a meaningful relationship with an adult.

In today’s information environment, where an individual can be exposed to hundreds of articles per day that reference a seemingly endless collection of research and corresponding data, it’s easy to gloss over some of the statistics we encounter on a daily basis.  I know that I am guilty of it from time to time; a 10% gain here, a 7% decrease there, some data are complimentary, some data conflict.  All of this combined can make the mind numb to identifying what is truly significant.

So in case you might have missed it, let me repeat that first statement (with a little emphasis added this time):

U.S. Department of Justice Research shows that youth are FIVE TIMES more likely to graduate from high school if they have a meaningful relationship with an adult.

Now please take a moment to think about that statistic, a single factor that can increase the probability of success for a child by 500%.  It’s almost too significant to comprehend, like someone telling me that I can run five times faster by eating spinach every day (and just to note, although spinach is very nutritious, I highly doubt that consuming it on a daily basis will make me the Popeye of speed).

The unfortunate side of this statistic, and the only reason it can exist, is that many children in our country (and many children in our community) do not have a meaningful relationship with an adult.  This is an overwhelmingly depressing reality that burdens our teachers, our schools, and ultBBBSimately, our community.

However, a solution does exist to help solve this problem, and it’s called mentoring.  Thankfully, here in South Bend, we have two outstanding organizations that provide volunteers the opportunity to mentor a child in a one to one relationship: Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Joseph County and the South Bend Education Foundation’s Mentoring Program.  These two programs provide the structure and support needed for volunteers to positively influence the life of a child in our community.

Is mentoring a silver bullet that will solve all problems related to youth?  Absolutely not.  But is it a positive step towards improving the lives of youth in our community?  Without a doubt.  Mentoring has been shown to significantly improve academic performance, decrease violent behavior, and decrease drug and alcohol abuse in children that participate in mentoring programs.  And anecdotally, I like to quote our Chief of Police, Ron Teachman (who himself is a mentor and a tireless advocate for mentoring in our community), who often says, “I have never met a child that has too many caring adults in his or her life.”

mentor2Personally, I have been involved as a mentor in Big Brothers Big Sisters for 9 years and the Education Foundation’s Mentoring Program for 5, and my experience has been overwhelmingly positive.  The two young men I mentor are both outstanding individuals, and in addition to the rewards of seeing them succeed and improve in life, I have been able to grow and progress as an individual, particularly with respect to patience, gratitude, and compassion.

That’s not to say that mentoring does not come with its challenges.  As is true in life, not every day is perfect, and not every situation has an ideal outcome.  But the challenges can always be overcome, and the ultimate rewards are plentiful.  Looking into the past, I would never change my decision to become a mentor.  Looking into the future, I am increasingly optimistic about my life, the lives of the two young men I mentor, and the community as a whole.

Currently, between the two primary mentoring organizations, our community has 132 children waiting for a mentor.  These are children who have been identified by teachers, counselors, guardians, and others as individuals who could significantly benefit from a one to one mentoring relationship.

For a volunteer, the commitment is as little as one hour a week.  With the Education Foundation’s Mentoring Program, mentoring takes place in school over the lunch hour.  With Big Brothers Big Sisters, mentoring can take place anytime that fits with both the mentor’s and mentee’s schedule.

MentoringMattersLogoRGB_000I highly encourage all members of our community to both consider becoming a mentor and encourage someone they know to do the same.  For more information on how to get involved, please visit

The future is bright in South Bend, and what better way to promote an increasingly positive future for our community than by becoming a mentor.



South Bend Community Survey- Add your Voice!

This past Friday I launched the South Bend Community Survey, the culmination of months of researching, meeting, tweaking, waiting and wordsmithing whittled to about 30 simple questions that should take you on average 3:22 to complete. And I hope you will take those few minutes to complete it, to share your voice on a variety of topics related to civic pride in South Bend. This survey isn’t sponsored by the City or any big corporations, there is no political agenda and we’re not just collecting this info to support pre-existing policies. It’s simply an idea I had and brought to fruition with the help of many awesome people, but how did it come to be?

A few of us were sitting around some tables last summer talking about the State of South Bend and all the neat stuff going on here when someone asked, “How do we measure the impact ?” The spirited discussion that followed that simple question led us to wonder if there were defined goals for the campaigns like I <3 SB button distribution and other “South Bend renaissance” efforts, as well as major initiatives like SB150. How DO we know if they have any impact on the community at large or individual civic pride? Who should be responsible for collecting the information to figure all this out? This discussion preceded the Harvard happiness hoopla and as someone who works in higher education, made perfect sense.

South Bend Color Run-46

Economic indicators such as unemployment rate, business development and how many houses are occupied provide one measurement that is relatively easy to attain. But as a social worker I wanted to go deeper, to see if we could capture more of the attachment residents have for South Bend. I wanted to measure pride and follow-up in a year to see if it changes. No one else seemed to be doing it so I figured ‘Why not?” jumping in with the support of the City, DTSB, the Chamber and a variety of friends from diverse backgrounds. My idea to put together a survey timed with SB 150 was met with enthusiasm, as it hadn’t been done city-wide before.

One method we tossed around that table was to determine a Net Promoter Score for South Bend. Championed by our SB Cubs owner Andrew Berlin, this method asks a simple question about whether you would recommend a “product” to a friend and then converts all of the responses to single score between 0-100. It’s a much more complicated process than I have room for here, but this score then could be compared to results from follow-up surveys to easily determine if the needle moves in a positive direction.

I was then connected with Vennli, a local start-up in Downtown South Bend and realized that we could go deeper than just having a score for the city. Collaborating with their staff, and using their growth platform, we arrived at a very simple, to the point survey asking about your South Bend pride considering factors that you look for in an ideal city.  Are those factors present here?  And it isn’t just about asking the questions, but putting together a strategic plan from the responses to enhance these factors. Most important is sharing results with all of you, as well as with those in the City and in our community who can help make the changes needed to grow our pride.

Many of you, like me, have ideas about how to make South Bend a better city so that it could never again be confused for one appearingSB-150_2014-color on a “dying cities” list. I encourage you to take those ideas, grab your friends and make them happen. I learned a lot about patience and persistence in the process, particularly when waiting for email responses from admittedly very busy people working on high priority issues, or when waiting an hour at the last Mayor’s Night Out event for my five minutes to share my rough draft with Mayor Pete. All totally worth it. I also learned a lot about civic pride and am looking forward to using all this newfound knowledge when reporting back on the survey results. So please, take the 3 ½ minutes you have while waiting for your turn on a customer service phone call and complete the survey. Add your email at the end to be part of the next round of surveying at the end of the year, when we check to see if our efforts made a difference. I want to hear your voice, I want to know what makes you proud to be a South Bender and I want you to <3 SB as much as I do.

Survey here:


SB150: What could be

As the time to kick off SB150 rapidly approaches (is it really today??) I find myself thinking about all of the possibilities and potential for highlighting a city in transition, finding its place between the concepts of past, present, and future.

What is SB150 you might ask? It’s a year long celebration of our City’s birthday, based on the 150th anniversary of, and centered around, the incorporation of the city back on May 22nd 1865. We’ll actually be celebrating our second 150. The first would have happened in 1985 as an anniversary of the formal establishment of the city (at least according to Wikipedia).

But I digress. Because what I really care about isn’t about the semantics of when the birthday is but about what could be, what can be done with a special focus on our city. I think that’s the unique opportunity SB150 provides us with. We have a reason to stand up and cheer loudly, and proudly, about South Bend.  Not just the romanticized city we have been in the past, or the fun and somewhat turbulent place we are right now, but about who we hope to be…our future.

I’ve often said that South Bend is a city that has really done a bad job of telling its story. More often than not others are telling the story and so we get articles like the Newsweek top 10 dying and the Harvard top 20 unhappiest places. If so many people, like myself, love this place then how is it possible that we’re not on the places people love list?

This lens is an opportunity to tell our story the way we want it told & potentially revise our identity, not just regionally, but to the whole world; to the South Bend diaspora, to our sister cities globally, to the World Wide Web.  We have an opportunity to tell a story of a renewed and resurgent South Bend, one that is diverse, welcoming, community oriented,  sustainably minded, vibrant, cultured, artistic, entrepreneurial. In a word, awesome.

Some will ask “but are we there yet?”, a question to which I have to honestly answer “no”. There are, and always will be, issues that remain unresolved and opportunities not taken. But to me that’s okay because what I’m talking about is aspirational. It’s a vision of where we’re heading, the city we want to become! Well, truthfully, the city I want it to become. Because I have a selfish desire to live in such a place. And, again, I think that’s okay.

For now I’m signing off but will be back to talk more about SB150 in the days and months to come.  Remember, the scope of what we can accomplish and create is only limited by our own imaginations and inhibitions. Won’t you join me in making it amazing?


p.s. Don’t miss out on the kickoff events this First Friday in DTSB including an address by Mayor Pete from the exterior mezzanine of the State Theater at 6pm. I’ll be wearing my sweet new SB150 baseball shirt from the Studebaker Museum:)



The Birdsell Project: Opening Reception by Myles Robertson

Five months ago this art opening, The Birdsell Project, was an idea just beginning to turn conversation.  I wanted to change the way my community viewed abandoned spaces and redefine abandonment, for myself and others. The concept was simple: find an abandoned space, allow artists in to create, and invite the public in to view the space and art.

Birdsell 1

If interpreted very literally, having people occupy an abandoned space turns it into something else entirely. Once people occupy a space it cannot, by definition, be abandoned.

While I hold that to be turn, I understand allowing people in The Birdsell doesn’t solve all of its issues,  – the heat is still shoddy, the plaster is cracked and flaking away, the roof leaks (luckily mostly water) – but allowing people entry into this is a fine start to fixing many of its most glaring issues.

When we first entered The Birdsell in September it had been essentially untouched by humankind for 10 years, though not untouched by nature. Since then we’ve hosted an album release party, a private party, a dance, a Halloween Party, a history tour, performance art, and local and touring bands. That’s not to mention the neighbors who have walked by and told me stories of the homes history and their desire to see its interior all these years, the artists working on their installations, and photographers and videographers grabbing footage.

We’ve had over 1000 people in the home since we opened its enormous quarter-sawn oak doors to the public, now the footprints of so many are accompanied by  contractors entering and exiting eager to resuscitate its most vital organs. The steps of visitors have become steps toward rehab.

Birdsell 2

I now stand in a space filled with people, with art, with life, and I ask you to join me in this conversation. Experience the unique stories that each artist has incorporated amongst the sometimes-crumbling walls and historic adornments of the Birdsell mansion. There are over 20 of them so the odds are pretty good that at least one of their stories will speak to you.

Twenty-one individual artists and collaborative teams have installed their work throughout the expansive mansion: Justin Barfield, Emily Beck, Chris Dant, Allison Evans, Mary Fashbaugh, Charles Jevremovic, Sarah Edmands Martin, William Newman-Wise, Jack O’Hearn, Photography Collective: Christine Anspach, Adam Goins, Mary Haley, Martina Lopez, Annaleigh McDonald, Aislinn Murphy, Emma Reaney, Madeline Renezeder, Sara Shoemake, and Brooke Turrell, Allison Polgar, Katelyn Seprish, Nathan Smith, Rachel Smith, Eric Souther, Nalani Stolz, Lauren Stratton, Andrew Strong, Zachary Tate, Laura Thompson, and Andres Vidaurre.


The opening reception will take place Saturday, December 13th from 7pm-10pm. There will be live music, food and drinks in the ballroom and opening remarks at 8pm by the exhibition’s organizers as well as South Bend’s Mayor Pete Buttigieg and the owner of the Birdsell Mansion, Steve Mihaljevic. Tickets available at

The Birdsell Project seeks to revitalize once abandoned spaces by opening them to artists and the community.

For more information please contact us at: , 574-323-0982,


Move and Be Moved: An Invitation by Hannah Fischer

Dear Beautiful South Bend, 

This is an invitation to move and be moved. 

​Photo by BlueKrishna Photography, When We Were There
When We Were There is a dance concert that explores memory, specifically the ways in which we re-experience and embody memories. We wonder and discuss how missed connections and relationships shift through time and memory. You are invited to choose your own adventure in an unlikely manner: through modern dance, theater, live sound and video projection. No two people will see the same stories, relationships, or meaning throughout this concert. 
My hope as director is that each audience member will see something that evokes a reaction or memory. When We Where There is not a story, but has relatable narrative elements; it is not literal, but neither is it completely abstract. I invite you to ask yourself about your most protected memories, your darkest moments, your brightest days, and ask how they inform your decisions and relationships.
How do we as a community engage in cultural memories?
​Photo from Caught, 2011. A dance and film project by Hannah Fischer
​Photo from Caught, 2011. A dance and film project by Hannah Fischer

The performers of When We Were There are of diverse movement backgrounds, all from our rich South Bend community. The primary cast, Greg Fox, Luke Fischer, and Susanna Frusti, began rehearsing in June 2014. Director Hannah Fischer called for community members to join the cast in September 2014 and received an enthusiastic response. Jing Zhu, Sophia Zovich, Ridge Alencar, Evan Scott Bryson, and Kristy Ganoe compose the community cast. 

Friday, December 12, 2014 | 8:00 pm EST
Saturday, December 13, 2014 | 8:00 pm ESTPRESENTED IN COLLABORATION WITH:
LangLab South Bend
1302 High StreetTICKETS: $15 presale, $18 at the door.
Buy tickets here: WWWT.eventbrite.comFB:

EMAIL: hannahbeth dot fischer at gmail dot com

#whenwewerethere  #wwwt

PS from the director:
“Hi, my name is Hannah, but you may know me as Hannahbird.

After three years away, I am thrilled to be back in this city. The streets are ever-changing, the color blooms on our crosswalks, and the foot traffic grows every day. I am proud to be an artist in South Bend.

As an artist, my work would be null and void without all of you. As a dancer/mover, my world does not make sense without other bodies with which to connect. Come and connect. Move and be moved.”

Hannah Fischer



Be Part of South Bend’s Future by the Office of Sustainability

Sustainability is a way of thinking that accounts for environmental, economic, and social impacts of activities both within city government and in the larger South Bend community. Becoming a more sustainable city means South Bend will have a stronger economy, bounce back better after disasters, and be a more enjoyable place to live and work. Working together towards sustainability promotes investments in our community, celebrates and helps preserve local assets, and cultivates our parks and open spaces.

The purpose of the South Bend Office of Sustainability is to make South Bend a more sustainable city.  To best serve the needs and dreams of the city we need to know what, as a community, is most important to you.

What are South Bend’s issues and assets?

What do you imagine for our city?

Your opinions will help identify projects and priorities for a strategic sustainability plan that will be promoted and implemented by the Office.

Help South Bend find creative ways to preserve natural resources, ensure social equity, and cut costs.  Sustainability opportunities such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation and biking, connections between health and sustainability, reducing waste, and public outreach can build upon South Bend’s City Plan, the South Bend Parks and Recreation Plan, and the Smart Streets Initiative. We will use these initiatives to prioritize efforts that help bridge city functions or community groups.

Take our survey to have a direct impact in the creation of the future-focused, Sustainable South Bend. Share your values and priorities for a sustainable city so the South Bend Office of Sustainability can go to work with you.

 Be a part of South Bend’s future – share your opinions!

Take the survey at 



Building a Better Block by Mara

This weekend community members will be Building a “Better Block” along Western Ave. to highlight and celebrate its potential as a thriving business district once again.   As someone who ‘Hearts’ SB, I heart ALL of South Bend, including the West side, and have been encouraging people to check it out. Many have asked what exactly it is, and it’s been hard to explain.  The Better Block event, Al Ritmo de la Western (The Rhythm of Western) is best described as a ‘block party’ but we’ve been warned by national Better Block staff not to describe it that way… so what will be going on over there?


First some background: Better Block is a national non profit based in Dallas that channels tactical urbanism and development to show communities how awesome a neighborhood could be.  As Laurie Schrader LaDow, the co-organizer of South Bend’s event noted, “ The event is in part to bring positive attention to the West Side and the wonderful people and businesses there. Also to bring awareness for future business opportunities along Western and to help the area develop an strong identity as a destination within the city for things you may enjoy but can’t find easily elsewhere.”  Through the Greater South Bend/ Mishawaka Association of Realtors, a grant was secured to bring Better Block to South Bend. With some guidance from Andrew Howard of the BB staff committees were formed, plans were made and the neighborhood was invited to show the city all the potential this once vibrant area of Western still holds. LaDow points out that this area was chosen especially because of the city’s focus on it as part of the West Side Corridors Plan. 

To prep for the main event this weekend, volunteers like myself have been plotting with business owners, spiffing up vacant buildings to attract new business, building pallet furniture,  securing landscaping, gathering sponsors (THANK YOU SPONSORS) and planning one heck of a good time. Friday night and Saturday afternoon the community is invited to celebrate Al Ritmo de la Western as the fruits of these efforts are shown off to highlight what a little elbow grease can do in our neighborhoods. Urban Garden Market will be on hand, a pop-up coffee shop, an art gallery in the old PBS building, music, dog park, beer tent, vendors,  activities for kids including a photo (5)bouncy house and more along that stretch of Western Ave! We also encourage you to visit the businesses there that are flourishing  like Taqueria Chicago and La Rosita to see the potential for success.

The event is about community building too and getting to know our neighbors in that area. Although I had been to Taqueria Chicago for dinner before, I’d never had the opportunities to meet folks like I have with Better Block.  In addition to Laurie, Myron, the planning committee members and the Realtors, I’ve had the chance to get to know Sam of La Casa de Amistad and learn more about the great services La Casa provides to the community. I’ve also had the chance to meet Leti of the Boys and Girls Club at Harrison, and Deacon Atkins at the New Philadelphia Church and Mariano and Juan and a whole host of others who are all part of what makes South Bend awesome, but you might not read about them in the Tribune. photo (7)

And there has been such generosity! The mexican hot chocolate and sweet breads that magically showed up while we were painting one cold day were indescribably good, and I’ve fallen in love with the tamales at La Central on the corner.

So building a better block has been literal, as we clean up vacant lots  and shops, but also a figurative piece of building a better South Bend. My hope is that not only will YOU all be dancing to the Ritmo de la Western this weekend with us, but that you’ll look at your own neighborhood with your neighbors to see what you might be able to do to make it shine with some elbow grease and creative vision.