Downtown South Bend
Downtown South Bend is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a “multiple resource area”. It is a mixture of important commercial, religious, public, and residential buildings constructed over the past 160 years. Settlement began on the west bank of the St. Joseph River in 1823 with the establishment of the first trading post, located within this district at the site of the St. Joseph’s Station. In 1831 the original plat of South Bend was recorded with three principal north-south streets: Michigan, Main, and Lafayette and three principal east-west streets: Washington, Market (now Colfax), and Water (now LaSalle). These streets form the nucleus of the Downtown South Bend Multiple Resource Area.
South Bend’s former urban density, uniform façade lines and contiguous rows of buildings have drastically changed since the 1920s. By the late 1960s, Urban Renewal projects demolished much of the city’s historic fabric and form. Over four entire blocks of buildings were lost in conjunction with rerouting of streets. In 1976, a pedestrian mall was built on Michigan Street between Wayne and Jefferson Streets and three blocks to the north were also closed at that time. Downtown South Bend remains an urban area despite the large open spaces that currently exist as a result of earlier demolition. These now provide the opportunity to engage in thoughtful and sympathetic redesign to resurrect the density and cohesiveness of South Bend’s downtown.