Love the block where you live: Come to a conversation on incremental neighborhood development

If you want to love where you live, this is a session for you!

Mike Keen of South Bend, who describes himself as “the accidental developer,” will be the featured speaker from 4 to 6 p.m. February 20 at the next session of Community Champions Roundtable at Tolson Center, 1320 Benham Ave., Elkhart.

The housing shortage in Elkhart County is well recognized. So too have been the challenges facing developers and builders. It can be slow, messy and trying. It’s difficult to cut through red tape. Costs often exceed the appraised value of new homes. Financing can pose major obstacles.

How do we develop Vibrant Neighborhoods? How can Elkhart County’s position as a community of makers be deployed to strengthening our neighborhoods?

The answer is by taking the initiative to get to know those who live nearby, by making things look nicer and doing things together that are fun. In this way, our communities unite behind our instincts to be well crafted, creative and collaborative.

Mike Keen (right) is interviewed on a South Bend area podcast about incremental neighborhood development.

It can also include having a capacity for local residents to invest in their own neighborhoods and encouraging local institutions to support small-scale development.

Keen will share his experiences and lessons learned. Keen partnered with Nappanee’s Dwayne Burkholder of New Energy Homes to use his innovative construction techniques to build net-zero energy homes.  What was a simple idea and limited scope has snowballed into the redevelopment of a whole neighborhood. Along the way the way, there have been false starts, road blocks, trips, stumbles and set-backs. They have also learned a ton about how to make stuff happen and get things done.

One example: The Shetterly Triangle area in South Bend’s Near Northwest Neighborhood needed some serious attention. Today it is becoming a model of what can be done to craft a Vibrant Neighborhood.

We will also talk about the Vibrant Communities’ program for neighborhoods in Elkhart County.  You will learn what it takes to get the designation and how to get involved.

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