Jennifer Henecke and Sarah Hill are on a mission to renovate old, historic buildings in South Bend. After refurbishing 35 historic houses, the duo at Penny Hill Homes are taking on two commercial properties in the heart of the city.
“As proud residents of the area we invest in, it’s been our privilege to help bring overlooked historic houses and neighborhoods back to life,” Hill said in a press release.
The two met in 2013 at Fiddler’s Hearth in South Bend during a work function for their husbands. Henecke had just moved to the area.
“Mat and I had just arrived in town and didn’t know anyone,” Henecke said. “During the evening, Sarah and I chatted, exchanged contact info, and ended up getting together later in the week to roast vegan marshmallows.”
The couples became fast friends and found similar interests in food and real estate. Both Henecke and Hill also are employees at the St. Joseph County Public Library.
The two are grateful to Northwest Bank for providing $748,000 in loans to purchase the mixed-use properties at 435 S. Michigan St. south of downtown, and at 521, 525, 529, 533 Lincolnway West, 528 W. Marion St. and 528 W. Madison St.
Henecke said they wouldn’t be able to invest in the area without Northwest Bank.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the help of Northwest,” Henecke said. “Northwest Bank is a vital partner to Penny Hill Homes as we move into our next era of helping reinvigorate communities within the city of South Bend.”
The Michigan Street commercial space features artists’ studios, a daycare center and three stores, with plans to expand gallery and performance spaces, more studios and vintage clothing retail.
The second property has four buildings and a barn they plan to renovate for weddings and events.
“The barn is part of a larger development project that we call ‘the farm’ because it is a little slice of land in the middle of the city (and it has a barn!),” Henecke said. “Our plans for developing this area will take several years, and we are looking to create a destination that ties together the historic neighborhoods on either side of Lincolnway West.”
But Henecke said they hope to open part of it this summer.
Gary Benedix, business banking officer at Northwest Bank, said helping partners like Penny Hill is part of his company’s mission.
“Northwest Bank is honored to partner with Sarah and Jennifer as they continue to realize their vision of bringing neglected areas of South Bend back to life,” Benedix said. “The work that they are doing to revitalize the South Bend community is central to Northwest’s goal of supporting and strengthening local communities.”
Penny Hill was founded in 2019 by Henecke and Hill. They sold two of their historic renovations so far in the West LaSalle neighborhood and are working on two others. Their other properties are rentals.
“We love historic homes, and we would work together as a group to purchase homes, do small scale renovations, and then rent them out,” Henecke said. “Penny Hill was a way for us to do bigger projects.”
Northwest Bank has headquarters in Pennsylvania and was founded in 1896. It has more than 20 branches in Indiana.