The Bakery Group has a vision for turning the former Ward Baking Co. building into Portage Place in South Bend.
But it needed more money to keep the project going. Thanks to a $670,000 small business loan from Northwest Bank, the project will continue.
“We were in a holding pattern for the past couple months, because we had expended our available private and public funding,” said Mike Keen, partner at The Bakery Group, in a press release. “The team at Northwest worked with us to put together the financing package we needed so the project could continue to move forward.”
With the new loan, the city of South Bend also will provide a $600,000 Revolving Business Enterprise Fund loan.
The plan includes renovating the 56,000-square-foot building into a mixed-use commercial space that will house retail, restaurant, health and wellness, and professional services. Meeting areas, artist studios and maker spaces also are part of the vision for the project.
“We recognized early on the role that Portage Place will play in revitalizing the Near Northwest Neighborhood,” said Jennifer Gibson, president of the Indiana region of Ohio-based Northwest Bank. “We’re pleased to support The Bakery Group and other commercial customers seeking to improve the quality of life in their communities.”
The Bakery Group bought the building in 2021, and has invested more than $900,000 in its cleanup, repair and renovation. City of South Bend property tax abatements freed up $300,000 to install new windows and upgrade the building's facade.
The project also received a $550,000 Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative grant from the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Development Authority in October 2022 for the renovations.
“This support from READI will allow us to renovate the old Ward Bakery building from a blighted and abandoned property dragging down property values into a vibrant and diverse neighborhood center and destination for commerce, culture and the arts,” Keen said.
The city had long been looking for a use for the building to bolster rejuvenation in the area. A community vision meeting in 2020 outlined ways the building could be used.
“It's critical that we find ways to finance great projects like Portage Place,” Mayor James Mueller said. “I appreciate the determination of The Bakery Group and look forward to seeing new life in the Ward building.”
The building was originally constructed around 1920 and expanded in 1940. It was abandoned in 2012, according to the Portage Place website.
The Bakery Group plans to complete the Portage Place project by early 2024.
Caption: The Ward Baking Co. building is being renovated into Portage Place, a mixed-use commercial space. (Provided by Portage Place)