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Notre Dame students help design South Bend housing development

Some Notre Dame architecture students are hoping their final project of the semester will have a big impact on South Bend.

Eight students in the architecture program have been working on designs for a new housing development that will help battle homelessness.

“This isn’t about architects, this is about the people that are gonna live there,” Notre Dame architecture student Martin Burns said. “That made it much more real. And from there, we started designing a building.”

And Friday afternoon, Burns and his fellow classmates presented their designs for a building that will have 32 one-bedroom apartments, all in hopes of helping homeless people in South Bend succeed.

“There’s a case management office that’s a part of it, there’s a fitness center, there’s people who will be assigned to each resident so they can meet and talk,” Burns said.

Those are just some of the features the development on West Indiana Avenue will have – all part of what’s called “permanent supportive housing,” or PSH.

PSH is a growing trend across the country that offers homeless people who are battling addiction or mental illness a safe, nurturing environment.

“[The students] did extensive research on how architecture can support the health and well-being of residents and then they applied their designs locally to the project here,” Notre Dame Architecture Assistant Professor Kim Rollings said.

Rollings introduced her students to the project.

She took them to Boston where they visited successful versions of these PSH developments that were built by Notre Dame Alum.

“[The students] shared a meal with the residents, they interviewed them, they talked to them about their actual experience over their life span and in the housing,” Rollings said.

That experience helped the students develop their designs, which Marco Mariani, whose organization is behind the development, said is the backbone of this partnership with Notre Dame.

“I think this will really help the development team implement some really creative ideas to service this vulnerable population in our community,” Mariana, the executive director of the South Bend Heritage Foundation, said.

If all goes according to plan, construction of the housing development could begin as early as October and it will only take one year to complete.

The students who presented their designs on Friday are hopeful their efforts will play some type of role in what the building looks like and how it helps the people living in it.

Professors and members of the architecture firm overseeing the project attended Friday’s presentation, along with Mariana. 

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