Notre Dame architecture students and city of South Bend collaborate to revitalize William Street

NOW: Notre Dame architecture students and city of South Bend collaborate to revitalize William Street

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Ever since the 1940s, William Street, which runs along the west side of downtown South Bend, has been on a downturn-- going from a mainly 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. Earlier this year, the University of Notre Dame partnered with South Bend to take a look at how William Street could be revitalized and become an essential part of the downtown area. 

“I was approached by the Dean of Architecture, Stefanos Polyzoides," said Corcoran. "When he arrived in South Bend, looking for ways to collaborate.”

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.”

William Street had been selected because previous Notre Dame professors in the School of Architecture had looked for local projects that students could work on during the COVID-19 pandemic, when travelling had been suspended.

When Professor Polyzoides approached the city, William Street was at the top of the list. 

Polyzoides, along with twenty students and faculty members, began work to see what insights they could bring to the table.

“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 fundamental issue: 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 of which would help to curb high-speed traffic.

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 public gathering, that- in turn- would promote foot traffic to potential businesses in the area.

The city has been pleased with the proposal coming from the students and faculty.

“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.”

And the city could collaborate with Notre Dame on a project like this again in the future:

“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.”

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