SOUTH BEND — New student housing has sprouted near college campuses nationwide in the past few years. Just look at the neighborhoods around the University of Notre Dame for examples.

But the housing boom hasn’t hit every campus.

Kyle Bach, president and CEO of Mecca Cos., sees a lot of small colleges that haven’t attracted much new development, even though he believes there’s demand for it. That includes Indiana University South Bend and other colleges traditionally thought of as commuter schools.

“That’s really the niche that we’ve identified,” Bach said of Mecca’s plan to develop off-campus student housing near small Midwestern colleges. “We feel that there’s an extreme demand and void in the market. That’s really our target market.”

Mecca, which is based in Indianapolis, broke ground in September on a new apartment complex next to Indiana University Kokomo. The development, named Annex of Kokomo, will have 61 units and 140 bedrooms.

Another project, The Villas at Carl Sandburg, opened last year with 60 apartments and 144 bedrooms near Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Ill.

Annex of South BendSouth Bend, which happens to be Bach’s hometown, is next on the company’s list.

Mecca has purchased three five-story buildings at the corner of 20th Street and Northside Boulevard, just east of IUSB, and plans to renovate the complex and rename it Annex of South Bend.

The three buildings date back to the early 1960s.

South Bend Heritage Foundation had owned the southern two buildings, known as Northside Terrace apartments, since 1998.

The north building has been vacant for almost 20 years, Bach said. That building is owned by Amir Pouya, of Granger, according to the property record.

Mecca closed on the sale of all three buildings Tuesday.

Marco Mariani, executive director of South Bend Heritage, said the nonprofit organization stepped in 15 years ago to stabilize what had been a troubled property. He’s excited to see Mecca moving ahead with its plans.

“We think it’s a great continuation of our efforts in that neighborhood,” Mariani said. “This presented a great opportunity for us to move on and let them do something bigger and better with that whole set of buildings.”

Bach said First State Bank of Middlebury and Great Lakes Capital of South Bend are Mecca’s financial partners on the $7.5 million project.

Annex of South Bend will have 66 apartments and 132 bedrooms when it opens to new residents next fall.

Redevelopment of the site will include covering the mint-green, glazed-brick exterior of the buildings with a new facade that looks like limestone — a nod to the material used on many Indiana University buildings.

The alley and parking lot east of the apartments will be resurfaced as well.

The first floor of the north building will be converted into a clubhouse for residents with a television and gaming stations, pool table, cyber cafe, tanning beds and 24-hour fitness center. A grilling area and cornhole court will be added to the courtyard between the north and middle buildings.

Annex of South Bend will provide another option for IUSB students who want to live close to school, though Bach said non-students can live in the complex as well.

IUSB opened its River Crossing Campus Housing, which has space for 400 students, in 2008 across the St. Joseph River from the main part of campus.

By Kevin Allen South Bend Tribune