A Historic Landmark: A Legacy of Community and Innovation

A Beginning Rooted in Care

Located in South Bend’s West Side within the West Washington National Historic Register District, this historic building originally served as a Children’s Dispensary, offering free and reduced medical care to families without financial resources. Constructed in 1925, the two-story brick structure housed thirty rooms, a gymnasium, and a sun deck. It provided comprehensive medical services and community programs for children and their mothers, becoming a cornerstone of the community. In 1966, it was renamed the Hansel Center in honor of its founder, Dr. Charles Hansel.

Civic Innovation Lab on 1045 W. Washington St. South Bend IN (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)
Joe Segura and Faith Ringgold at the Segura
Arts Studio (Photo by R Casarez)

An Era of Art and Culture

After being vacant since 2003, a $2.5 million renovation transformed the building, reopening in 2013 as the Notre Dame Center for Arts & Culture (NDCAC). This renovation was a partnership between Notre Dame and the South Bend Heritage Foundation with part financing from Federal Community Development Block Grants. The fundraising efforts were supported by local businesses and philanthropic organizations, including the Notre Dame Institute for Latino Studies, the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, the Florence V. Carroll Charitable Trust, and the Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center. The NDCAC hosted the University’s Community Relations department, the Crossroads Gallery of Contemporary Art, and the Segura Arts Studio, offering after-school tutoring, public lectures, art classes, and summer camps.

Transition to Innovation

When the NDCAC closed in 2018, the building became home to the Notre Dame Center for Civic Innovation, now known as the Civic Innovation Lab (CIL). Supported by the College of Engineering, Notre Dame Research, Center for Social Concerns, and IDEA Center, the Lab emerged from the Bowman Creek Educational Ecosystem (BCe2) project started in 2015. This initiative immersed engineering students in hands-on, community-engaged work to address regional issues through collaborations with Notre Dame faculty and community partners. CIL expanded its reach, hosting over 50 interns from 15 colleges and high schools across the region. It continued the BCe2 internship program and added the Western Educational Ecosystem in South Bend and Elkhart Catalyst in Elkhart. The Lab offered STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) programming, including an innovative STEM+Music program for elementary school students in the South Bend-Elkhart region.

Former interns Marty Kennedy (from left), Fred Teague and Gemma Stanton pose in front of then Notre Dame Center for Civic Innovation in South Bend.

Merging for Greater Impact

In April 2024, the Civic Innovation Lab merged with Notre Dame’s Lucy Family Institute for Data & Society to enhance its applied research and educational opportunities. The historic building now serves as the Institute’s downtown office, a vibrant hub for campus and community collaborations, continuing to offer internship and educational opportunities to area students to address complex community-based issues by developing civic engagement projects in the local community.


Civic Innovation Lab
1045 W. Washington St.
South Bend, IN 46601
Phone (574) 631-0661