Located in downtown South Bend, Howard Park is a world-class destination park featuring an ice trail and pond, playground, community center, and restaurant.
Matt Cashore Photographer Located in downtown South Bend, Howard Park is a world-class destination park featuring an ice trail and pond, playground, community center, and restaurant.

From a public landfill in the mid-1800s to a world-class public park for a Midwestern city of 100,000, South Bend, IN’s Howard Park has become the city’s marquee park property. The park has undergone several iterations since its opening in 1899, but over the decades had fallen into disrepair. The park grounds and community center were aging and underused, and the ice rink no longer operational.

That all changed in November of 2019 when the community celebrated Howard Park’s transformation.

South Bend-based Alliance Architects was selected to redesign the 13-acre park. Bill Lamie, AIA, the Alliance Architects principal leading the project, tapped Landscape Architect Kevin Clark from The Lakota Group to collaborate on the park design.

Aaron Perri, executive director of South Bend Venues, Parks, and Arts, refers to Howard Park as “everybody’s party.” We wanted to ensure that people would keep returning to Howard Park, that the design and park elements would create a sense of wonder and discovery and Instagram moments,” Perri says. Surprise and delight are in no short supply at the redesigned Howard Park. “Attendance figures shattered what we could have imagined,” says Perri. “In the winter months of 2019 when the park was fully opened, we hosted 150,000 visitors in a town of 100,000.”

The park’s location along the St. Joseph River informed the team’s concept for the landscape design, which builds on the idea of a flowing river. “The landscape has movement with grade changes and winding trails. The blue and green palette, stone buildings and outcroppings, and sculptural site elements create an organic feel,” Clark says. The design of the Landscape Forms lighting and site furnishings selected reinforces the organic, sculptural characteristics of the park’s new buildings, hardscape, and greenscape.

FGP area lights and Torres area, wall-mounted, and catenary lights were chosen for their contemporary aesthetic, which Clark describes as “timeless and interesting.” The FGP area lights are located along the perimeter of the park, pathways, and ice trail. The family of Torres fixtures gave Clark the ability to aesthetically connect elements from taller area lights around the ice pond to smaller, wall-mounted fixtures on the community center and other buildings. “Lights are an important element of any site, even in the daytime,” Clark says. “They link things together. They create a visual experience at night, but they also unify shapes and define pathways.” Architecture and engineering firm Stantec created the park’s electrical and lighting plan.

The plaza area features Escofet’s Twig and Lungo Mare benches, FGP benches, and Stop bollards. “Visitors comment on the sculptural nature of Lungo Mare seating and Twig benches,” Lamie says. “They reinforce and complement the consistency of Howard Park’s design. All of the elements work well together, and that’s the strength of the final result.”