On October 5, 2013 residents, partners, and stakeholders in South Bend’s near northwest neighborhood came together to roll out a quality of life plan and celebrate their success in reaching the “end of the beginning” for neighborhood change.  The Near Northwest Neighborhood Inc. has been working with IACED for the past year to train and organize local residents, develop a common vision, and commit to SMAART goals which are the basis for revitalizing the neighborhood, which contains 4 historic districts. SMAART goals are specific, measurable, aggressive but achievable, relevant, and timebound. You can read a live tweet stream of the events and see pictures on IACED’s Twitter feed – @INCommDev.
The process began with organizing. Resident leaders and stakeholders were trained in listening as a form of relationship building. A target of 100 interviews was set.
Following the interviews, a report back session was conducted to share learnings and build commitment from other residents, stakeholders, and leaders. With relationships built through interviews, the neighbors moved into deciding the vision for the neighborhood and the work ahead of them through action plans. Action planning teams were formed and tasked with developing goals and strategies around the areas of greatest concern and opportunity. With action plans complete, the neighborhood paused today to celebrate all of its work; mark the “end of the beginning” and move to action in the form of implementation.
By the numbers, the quality of life planning process listened to 130 neighbors about their passions and the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats impacting the community. These interviews with formal and informal leaders across the neighborhood highlighted 6 key topics, 20 goals, 99 action steps, and one vision for change.
The topics and goals of the quality of life plan include:
Connections and Communications
  • Develop a new block captain program to facilitate increased positive interactions between neighbors, covering 90% of the neighborhood by 2018.
  • By October 2014, establish a landlord contact list with the intention of bringing landlords into better communication with the neighborhood, improving contact with new neighbors, keeping properties up to code, and raising awareness of the Quality of Life Plan among non-resident landlords.

Quality Housing

  • Develop a plan to support a comprehensive neighborhood redevelopment initiative in Census Tract 6.
  • Reduce the negative impact of at least 95 vacant and abandoned or substandard housing units in Census Tract 6 by strategic rehabilitation of single family homes, production of quality market rate and affordable rental housing, demolition and redevelopment and other measures by end of 2018.
  • Increase the knowledge base and accountability of landlords and tenants in the neighborhood to improve rental property maintenance and reduce the number of nuisance rental properties.
  • Improve the condition and appearance of 3-5 structurally sound properties through needed repairs and maintenance each year.
Economic Opportunity and Redevelopment
  • Engage in the city’s initiative for Lincoln Way West.
  • Adopt a Portage Corridor Vision Plan with a particular focus on the area between Golden Avenue and Van Buren Avenue by 2015.
  • Restore the Ford distribution building site at 906-908 Portage Avenue to provide affordable rental housing and first floor commercial development.
  • Create a neighborhood campaign to add a working porch light and one motion activated security light to 100 households as part of a pilot program to deter property crimes throughout the near northwest by January 2015.
  • Improve neighborhood safety through an awareness campaign (to launch by April 2014) to inform neighbors on street light operations and maintenance in the near northwest.
  • Establish a quarterly ‘crime awareness’ training seminar program to teach neighbors how to be more observant of crimes and crime opportunities.
Infrastructure and Connectivity
  • Improve connectivity within the neighborhood and between the near northwest and downtown South Bend and other South Bend points of interest through investment in bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
  • Improve bike and pedestrian safety at key intersections throughout the near northwest by installing crosswalk safety features in 2016.
  • Improve the character of the neighborhood by adding 10 park benches and planters to key locations by 2016.
  • Establish a neighborhood tree planting initiative to encourage planting of certain flower, fruit, and heritage trees.
  • Establish a long-term plan to identify and repair sidewalk and curb hazards in the neighborhood by July 2014.
Youth and Families
  • Engage more neighborhood youth in structured activities in the neighborhood and broader community.
  • Engage neighbors in activities to promote healthy lifestyles.
  • Facilitate connections among diverse groups of NNN residents.
Former South Bend Mayor Steve Luecke  who co-chaired the Infrastructure and Connectivity Action Planning team talked about the quality of life plan is a social contract that neighbors and community partners were committing to champion. A contract requires “signing on the bottom line and in a democracy we sign with our vote,” said former Mayor Luecke.
Steve Luecke votes in support of the plan along with other neighbors. Citizenship in action.