SOUTH BEND -- City leaders' vision for Ignition Park might not be obvious to passers-by on Sample Street, where two towering dirt piles sit along the northern edge of the state-certified technology park.

But those who turn south on Franklin Street or Prairie Avenue will gain a better idea of how the future might look on the former Studebaker manufacturing site.

The streetlights that line Ignition Circle don't draw any power from the electrical grid. Instead, they're equipped with small wind turbines and solar panels.

Data Realty is up and running in its sleek, new $15 million building. The data-storage company announced in early 2011 that it would move to a five-acre site in the tech park, and it did so in November.

Jitin Kain, director of planning for the South Bend Department of Community Investment, said there have been "a few general inquiries" from other companies about the availability of land at Ignition Park. He said the city is finalizing a strategy for the tech park's management, which will help in recruiting additional businesses.

A plat of the tech park shows 16 lots that vary in size from 2.83 acres to 5.93 acres. Kain said the city is asking buyers for $26,250 per acre.

Kain said city officials are also putting together a request for proposals from private developers to construct a multi-tenant building at Ignition Park. Such a structure could house several early-phase companies, which might be ready to move out of the incubator Innovation Park at Notre Dame but not ready to individually finance a new building.

"The city is not a developer, so we would not build the multitenant building," Kain wrote in an e-mail. "We have identified the need for a multitenant building and will look to the private sector to build it."

Kain said officials are also finalizing a plan for grading the entire 84-acre park. The soil piled up in the northern part of the site will be used for that purpose.

The South Bend Redevelopment Commission, the entity that owns the Ignition Park property, recently approved a contract with Selge Construction to do the grading work. Kain said it should be done within a month.

The commission has also authorized the city to acquire additional parcels, totaling roughly 12 acres, between Indiana Avenue and Ignition Park's southern boundary. Kain said the city's long-term goal for the park to cover 140 acres will be evaluated for feasibility over time.

South Bend officials launched their effort to develop Ignition Park on the former Studebaker land in 2008 after the Semiconductor Research Corp.'s Nanoelectronics Research Initiative selected the University of Notre Dame as one of its national research centers.

They saw an opportunity to leverage the region's broadband infrastructure and the Studebaker corridor's power capacity -- a positive legacy left from the defunct automaker -- to turn blighted industrial land into a base for technology firms.

City officials have put a significant down payment toward that effort.

Kain said acquisition, demolition and environmental remediation on the Studebaker and nearby Oliver Plow sites cost about $30 million. That funding came from a combination of local, state and federal sources.

The city spent another $2.5 million for new roads, utilities and other design and infrastructure work in Ignition Park's first phase, he said. Officials are investigating costs for the next phase.

Staff writer Kevin Allen:
kallen@sbtinfo.com
574-235-6244