Downtown building gets an overhaul
SOUTH BEND, Sep 11, 2012 (Menafn - South Bend Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --The removal of overgrown trees from the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Michigan Street in downtown South Bend has exposed an extensive office building renovation.
Passers-by now have a clear view of the six-story former Wells Fargo building that had been hidden from their view for years behind the plaza's thick foliage.
Located at 112 W. Jefferson Blvd., the building has been renamed Citizen's Bank & Trust, after the original tenant in 1913. The plaza was cleared late last week.
"The building hasn't existed in most people's minds because this corner looked so dark," said Brad Toothaker, a principal at Great Lakes Capital Development of South Bend.
Great Lakes Capital, which also renovated downtown's American Trust Place, purchased the six-story building last fall after Wells Fargo announced the relocation of offices to Wayne Street and to Eddy Street Commons.
The more than 4 million project should be completed by Thanksgiving. Plaza redevelopment might not be finished until springtime.
"That corner seemed so secluded before, like you were heading into an alley," said Aaron Perri, executive director of Downtown South Bend Inc.
"You never saw many people going into there, and no one would go on the grass because it wasn't landscaped like a park," he said. "There's exciting potential to interact with whatever goes in on the ground floor."
The renovation project will update the entire 50,000-square-foot building, with the exception of some marble staircases and other unique architectural elements that will be preserved.
The Oliver Estate trust offices have remained inside through the renovation process that started in earnest last spring, but several other tenants have moved to other downtown locations.
"As the project details grew, the work became more invasive to most of the tenants," Toothaker said.
He hopes to find a commercial tenant to lease the first floor of Citizen's Bank & Trust. City officials agreed a retailer, restaurant or similar commercial venue would add to downtown activity.
"There's exciting potential for the plaza to interact with what-ever goes on the ground floor -- boy, what a great place for an outdoor bistro," Perri said.
Great Lakes Capital, CB Richard Ellis-Bradley and Bradley Residential Management offices are being consolidated from various downtown sites to the second, third and fourth floors.
Toothaker is a principal or president of these companies.
The fifth and sixth floors, which are available for lease at 17 per square foot, are most suitable for financial, insurance or other offices.
A 25,000 matching grant has been awarded by Downtown South Bend Inc. to fund facade improvements along the east side of the building. Toothaker would like to create large windows to add more natural light and views overlooking a more welcoming community green space below.
"It was a bit of a hangout with negative connotations," Toothaker said about the plaza before it was cleared last week. "We want to make it a hangout with positive connotations."
Tamara Nicholl-Smith, director of business recruitment at DTSB, said an open public space like this will create additional opportunity for community engagement.
"It's a very important corner in South Bend," she said. "The key is this will be a civic space -- even though it's on private land -- and a beautiful amenity for people who live and work downtown to make better use of."
"It holds a lot of potential," he said, as Citizen's Bank & Trust and other projects, including the State Theatre redevelopment, and restaurant activity "start to really open up this second half of downtown."
Staff writer Heidi Prescott:
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