New plans in the works for abandoned South Bend building

By Erica Finke

Friday, February 5th 2021

The Ward Baking Company building has been abandoned in South Bend’s Near Northwest neighborhood for 12 years.

The building has new ownership and new plans for the future. The developers are turning it into a “collaborative village” for the neighborhood

The building is now going to be called Portage Place. The goal is to create an open space where professional and creative services can work alongside one another.

Built more than100 years ago the Ward Baking Company Building is standing on the outside, but crumbling on the inside.

Bakery Group President Mike Keen has lived blocks away from this building for 20 years. After clearing out clutter and asbestos for the past month, Keen says the building wouldn’t have made it another year.

“For many years this has been sitting here, beautiful old building but totally falling apart and really scaring everyone out of the neighborhood. People see this and if you’re not used to it, it just frightens them.”

The Near Northwest Neighborhood Organization wanted to turn the building into affordable senior apartments, but wasn’t successful.

Keen says they needed to renovate or demolish the space.

Project Partner Monte Anderson is based out of Dallas. He encouraged the group to keep the building and turn it into Portage Place.

“When I first saw this building, I said look at this.. this is a jewel. right now, you have a diamond in the neighborhood, and it will be.”

The framework for Portage Place was based off Anderson’s Tyler Station in Dallas.

Tyler Station was an old wax paper manufacturer before Anderson turned it into a collaborative community for the Dallas area.

Keen and Anderson say this new space will help revitalize the Near Northwest Neighborhood.

“You give people a place where they can be inspired and they can be creative,” said Anderson.

“We think it’s going be the place to be, the place for you to come and create your dreamscreate your future and help us build our neighborhood and build our community,” said Keen.

Keen says they’re working on the brochure and rent prices for the different spaces. They’re hoping for a wide range of services from a beauty shop to a café and even insurance workers to make it a well-rounded hub for the neighborhood.