City still searching for right fit for Hall of Fame building


There's activity at the Hall of Fame Building for the holiday season, but in a few weeks it will be dark and empty again. WSBT has learned new information about the city's plans for the building.

Inside the former College Football Hall of Fame building, it's a happening place for the holidays. Two local moms are opening the city's seventh 2013 pop up shop as "Playgroup" - a place for kids and their parents to play.

There's also a Gingerbread Village competition inside and a giant Christmas tree outside.

The city says that space is being used to showcase it during the holiday season and keep downtown's vibrant momentum going.

But some people who live, work and play downtown say they're anxious for something permanent to move in.

"I think it's taking a little longer than it should, especially for something to be empty like that, especially for the cost of what it is to keep it sitting there for nothing," said Andrea Dudeck, who lives downtown.

Seven months ago, the city put out a nationwide call for proposals - asking people who want to move in to the building to pitch their ideas. The city received four bids, at least one was a group of local investors.

"We've seen everything from a casino, to another museum to a culinary training center [pitched in those proposals]," South Bend's Business Development Director Chris Fielding told WSBT.

But the city didn't accept any of those. Instead, it asked some of them to continue to vet their plans and provide more documentation in the future.

"We did like the ideas," Fielding said. "They really needed to put more details in place before we could move forward with them as a true partner."

But what's taking so long to find a good partner?

"Our job is not just to fill a building. Our job is to make sure we have the right mix of businesses," he added. "And if you're not the right investor or not the right business to be in the downtown, we could be faulted for not taking advantage when people want a building, but we'll also be faulted for having a bad business downtown."

The city says this has been one of the best and most vibrant years for downtown in a very long time. More than a dozen new businesses opened in 2013 and several housing developments are in the works.

Tonight kicks off another First Fridays event - with Santa Claus arriving at the grid iron on a fire truck and taking pictures in his house outside the Hall of Fame building with kids. The photo op is free, just remember to bring your own camera.

For more details on when to catch Santa downtown this season, visit the Downtown South Bend website.

Because of that, Fielding said the city has had a surge in inquiries about the building - both locally and from outside the United States - from people who are interested in buying it.

That means it could be taken off the city's hands for good.

Fielding would not give a timeline for the Hall of Fame building's future, but said it will be a priority in 2014.