The Martin’s on Portage Avenue is at a very interesting point in its history. As the original location for the local grocery chain, it has long served the Far Northwest District of South Bend. With the recent Drewery’s demolition (you can see the dilapidated buildings in the background), and with the new Coal Line Trail running just south of the campus, as well as area anchor institutions like Holy Cross Church and Muessel Grove Park – this area is receiving some long overdue attention.
The existing campus sits as a sprawl inspired, car centric site. As you can see in the aerial, when the story has ample surface parking surrounding it, which gives a vacant feel when it isn’t busy (or when the store is closed). Many curb cuts/entrance drives on both Portage and Elwood lead to a chaotic flow of traffic, especially at busy times. The intersection here also serves as an important junction in the Transpo route, with many patrons often congregating at the corner. With the bubbling community enthusiasm in the District (projects like the Local Cup or Tiny House initiative), with the City driven improvements (Coal Line Trail, Portage Bridge rehab), and with the potential of the site (anchors of Martin’s, Holy Cross, and Muessel Grove; the intersection of multiple modes of transportation; and the ample land availability) – this particular location would serve as the catalyst for the renaissance of the Far Northwest District of South Bend.
Looking to the Sprawl Repair Manual for inspiration shows what a site like this could look like with an appropriately scaled development:
Responding to the needs of the neighborhood, as well as the needs of Martin’s are key into making this a success. Energy improvements (lighting, improved site vegetation, solar installations, and greenroofs) would help improve existing costs, while also adding to the economic and ecologic sustainability of the area. Integrating pedestrian elements, such as more crossings, bus shelters, bike lanes, bike share, etc. will add value to existing systems (like the Transpo routes) while also improving the safety of a busy pedestrian hub. Pushing development to the perimeter of the campus reinforces the neighborhood feel, while also adding many available supporting business opportunities to the district. Increasing hierarchy at the entrances will better direct pedestrian and vehicular traffic to Martin’s, which would benefit from the development (and the flux of people it could bring).
The images below offer some perspectives of what this could look like: