SOUTH BEND — A new project now underway aims to harness the beauty, splendor, and energy of the St. Joseph River.
Seitz Park will soon look a lot different to visitors. It will also be the site of a new hydroelectric power plant.
The city has been working with the University of Notre Dame on this project, a mutually-beneficial undertaking.
Notre Dame is giving the city a million dollars to make park improvements above ground. The city is allowing the university to build a power plant that can help its effort to go green.
Construction crews are already working hard to make the plans a reality.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg says this project will return the park back to use better than it began.
“The park is right in the heart of the city for one thing,” said Buttigieg. “It’s also one of the best vantage points to see the river lights. It’s also important because this is one of the places where the city and the river meet one another. And as a river city creating those junctures where people can interact with this waterway, that gives our city its identity is very important.”
Improvements include new restrooms, a vending area and a concert space. A new park entrance and improvements to the riverwalk area are also planned.
But what we will see above ground is just the tip of the iceberg; Notre Dame will build a hydroelectric power plant below the park that will supply energy to campus.
“Our aspirational goal is to reduce our carbon footprint by 50 percent by 2030 based on a 2005 baseline,” said Paul Kempf. “And so this makes a fairly significant dent in that. 10,000 is about 5 percent of our current emissions.”
Kempf is the Assistant Vice President of Utilities and Maintenance at Notre Dame. He says this project is another great piece of the university’s diversified sustainable energy strategy.
Executive Director of South Bend Venues, Parks and Arts Aaron Perri says the power of the river in the city’s history has always been extremely important.
“Whether it was the Native Americans who traversed it or the European settlers that used it for trade and then, once manufacturing became a part of our city’s history, they had to figure out a way to keep up with the growing demands of industry,” said Perri.
Perri says this two-tier project is an opportunity to pay homage to the historical significance of the river while utilizing its potential to serve community needs.
Park improvements are expected to cost about $4 million. The plant and park are expected to be open for business in 2021.
Notre Dame and the city of South Bend began discussing the hydro plant back in 2015.