South Bend Downtown Waterfront
South Bend, Indiana
Toole Design worked with the City of South Bend to reconceive its downtown’s streets and develop an open space plan. Known as the Smart Streets Initiative, this project involved restoring every one-way street in the City’s downtown to two-way and “road dieting” all but one street to two lanes.
Along the city’s formerly industrial waterfront, the initiative involved designing open space that integrated with street designs, bicycle facilities, and trails. St. Joseph Boulevard, a four-lane, one-way state road was redesigned to be a two-lane, two-way street. The reclaimed space along the boulevard was turned into a separated bicycle facility, which ran parallel with the river. Along the riverfront itself, a pedestrian trail and a second cycling facility were provided.
The plan overcame a series of challenges along the length of the waterfront, including buildings that were constructed right up to the water’s edge, bridges, busy intersections, and large slopes. The largest remaining public land on the waterfront was redesigned to make a plaza more usable and flexible for public use. The boulevard was made two lanes and curbless so that, on weekends, evenings, and special occasions, the street can seamlessly become part of the plaza space and host large events on the waterfront without a barrier. Various scales of gathering spaces were incorporated into the design, and the result is a large public space that adds beauty, activity, and value to the downtown.
We’ve logged over $90 million in private investment from people who were choosing to invest in downtown business because they’ve seen what we’ve been doing in the streetscapes.Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg
The plan enjoyed a high degree of public and business support thanks in large part to a four-week charrette process, which Toole Design’s design and planning staff led. Toole Design created concept designs and presented them to a wide swath of the public, including City of South Bend and Indiana Department of Transportation officials, staff from the nearby hospital, historic restorationists, and residents. Toole Design also helped City officials secure state funding to for restoring South Bend’s streets.