City drafts plan to fix up Miami Hills neighborhood

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - A South Bend neighborhood that some say has been neglected over the years, might be getting a facelift soon.

It comes as several complaints were filed last year surrounding the Miami Hills apartment complex and its unlivable conditions and higher crime rate.

The 5 goals are aimed at making the Miami Hills neighborhood as a whole better and safer for its residents.

“This was a nice complex at one time and now… it’s junk now," Kelly Jones said.

Jones has lived in Miami Hills apartments for almost 5 years and has seen her fair share of problems.

"My first apartment out here had water damage because the apartments above had leaks in them going straight to my kitchen and bathroom. I lived out of totes for 6 months before they moved me," she said.

She has moved apartments several times over the years.

"The next apartment they moved me to the lights kept going on and off on their own," she said. "I went for a week without electricity in that apartment."

But that’s not what worries her the most about the area.

"We have a lot of crime out here. Last Thursday the police were out here 5 or 6 times in one day. That’s just ridiculous. We need better security.”

When asked if she felt safe, she said no.

"I'm licensed to carry and I do just because I will never feel safe here," she said.

Last October it was even considered a nuisance property after there were 168 calls of service in only 90 days.

5th district councilman Jake Teshka said looking at fixing Miami Hills apartments is a huge part of the plan since a big chunk of those in the neighborhood live at the complex.

"This neighborhood is one where we’ve seen some issues in the past both with different neighborhood things such as code and violence but also the infrastructure that needs to be improved," Teshka said.

Now he's working with the city to take the first steps to fix it.

The five goals of this plan are to:

-        Upgrade infrastructure like sidewalks

-        Create a safe place for those without vehicles to get places

-        Explore places to put a park and other recreational spaces

-        Create opportunities for building new homes as well as maintain already existing properties like Miami Hills apartments

-        Look for ways incentivize beautification of the neighborhood

However, residents aren’t sure this is the right step.

"I give the city credit for trying to help but you can only do so much to a bad neighborhood," Jones said. "If you have a lot of crime and a lot of people who don’t care, prettying it up, it’ll still get torn back down.”

"Anytime you invest in people and the neighborhood, folks start to take a little more pride in that neighborhood," Teshka said. "We as residents need to make sure we have each other's backs and watching out for one another.”

It’s important to remember this is just a draft plan so there still needs to be public meetings and a vote on the plan.

The plan is just the first step in a grand plan making the neighborhood a better place to live which later down the road could include a complete reworking of the apartment complex.

“It would be a multimillion-dollar renovation and that would take a partnership with the city," Teshka said.

The draft plan is the first step so that if the apartment owners do wish to fix up the complex, they could also apply for a tax credit to help with this monumental task.

The plan's approval is still a long way off and right now officials are looking for those living in the Miami Hills neighborhood to share their thoughts on the plan, to find where to invest dollars.

When it comes to a complete remodel for the complex, that is still up to the owner. However, the city implemented a rental verification program last year that allows the city to put pressure on the complex to fix the problems there with living conditions.

"We’ve got fines racking up and those sorts of things against the property so we’re actively working towards a solution," Teshka said. "There’s a lot of band-aid fixes that have been done. they’re not long term fixes. In reality, for that property to be sustainable long-term as old as it is, we would need to do a building by building, strip, and rebuild.”

A rebuild is up to the owners of the complex and their funding would be through Housing and Urban Development.

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