Notre Dame architecture students partner with South Bend to revitalize barren street

NOW: Notre Dame architecture students partner with South Bend to revitalize barren street

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame architecture students are getting a change to put their skills in the real world and improve the South Bend community.

Ever since the 1940s, William Street, which runs along the west side of downtown, has been on a downturn, going from a residential street to a nearly vacant corridor of empty lots and high vehicle traffic.

“The street has seen its better days," says Tim Corcoran, the Director of Planning and Community Resources for South Bend. "When the city pushed through William Street to connect to Lincolnway, it created a cut through around Downtown, which changed the traffic pattern and at that point the street and the environment around it started to decline.”

But things are possibly looking up for this forgotten path.

This year, the University of Notre Dame partnered with South Bend to see how William Street could be revitalized and become an essential part of the downtown area. 

Stefanos Polyzoides, the Dean of Notre Dame's School of Architecture, said "It is important for a School of Architecture to be responsible for the city in which it finds itself located in and care for it very deeply.”

Notre Dame wanted a local project for architecture students to work on during the COVID-19 pandemic, when traveling abroad was suspended.

Professor Polyzoides approached the city- and William Street was at the top of the list. 

“We engaged the neighbors to some extent- it was difficult due to the pandemic," said Polyzoides. "And over a week we developed this project which was then presented to both the city and to the neighbors.”

One of the fundamental issues to address on William Street: the traffic.

“The street itself has become a very high speed, a fast thoroughfare that excludes the possibility of people living around it," said Polyzoides.

The proposal recommended creating medians and establishing bike lanes, as well as planting trees to border the streets, all to help cut down on speeding. 

According to Polyzoides: “The street itself is to be tamed before an orderly process of growth is instituted over time through growth and the development process.”

The in-depth proposal also suggested the creation of public spaces to promote gathering and bring in more foot traffic to businesses in the area. 

“The city is fundamentally interested in finding ways of regenerating the architectural and construction and developing market in the downtown," said Polyzoides.

And the city likes the ideas presented in the proposal. 

“It’s a really well made document, and they should be quite proud of the work that they’ve done," said Corcoran. "I think there is a possibility for some of the ideas in that plan to make it into city policy.”

The change might not come right away to William Street-- but the work done by Notre Dame students to better South Bend, is just getting started.

“There’s a lot of great talent in the College of Architecture and Stefanos is one of the leading urban designers and architects in the country," Corcoran said. "So I think it’s a great opportunity to partner with them on a variety of projects throughout the city.”

In fact, the project was so successful, the School of Architecture is planning on having two more in the future: one for this semester, and another in the Spring. 


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