Benton Harbor Flats Project Gets Huge Boost from Michigan Strategic Fund

Another major step was taken today in the renaissance of downtown Benton Harbor’s Central Business District, thanks to the dogged determination of the team at Cornerstone Alliance.

Thanks to their request and the Michigan Strategic Fund’s approval, the Benton Harbor Flats project will get a $1.5-million performance-based grant to renovate a key building at the central crossroads of Main and Pipestone at the heart of the city.

State Rep. Pauline Wendzel today announced that approval, saying, “I’m incredibly excited about this project,” and adding, “I want to specifically thank the Cornerstone Alliance, and Benton Harbor Flats LLC for their investment in Benton Harbor. This project will create twenty-two jobs and serve as a catalyst for future development in the heart of Benton Harbor.”

The Benton Harbor Flats project plans call for the renovation of a vacant, two-story building located on 0.24 acres into a mixed-use development in downtown Benton Harbor. The completed project is anticipated to include sixteen market-rate residential apartments and two office suites.

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In addition to significant interior rehabilitation activities, the project also includes the removal of existing metal façade materials with the goal of restoring the original brick façade, which is believed to be intact under the metal.

Cornerstone Alliance President Rob Cleveland, who was in Lansing for the meeting with the Michigan Strategic Fund today, says, “This investment in the Harbor Center building is a critical step in the reinvention of Benton Harbor’s historic Main Street, and it simply would not have occurred without the unwavering commitment of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Cressy Commercial Real Estate.” He adds, “The Harbor Center building would have been demolished without the support of these two groups, along with support from the Mayor of Benton Harbor, the Benton Harbor Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, Benton Harbor City Commission and the Cornerstone Alliance Board of Directors.”

Cleveland, who along with Cornerstone Alliance Chief Operating Officer Greg Vaughn, have been shepherding the project through various hurdles along the way notes, “Cressy’s vision for this multi-use development includes the addition of more than a dozen new residential units which will directly benefit the many unique businesses in the Benton Harbor Arts District and surrounding neighborhoods.”

Vaughn says, “We’re pleased with today’s Michigan Strategic Fund approval of the CRP grant for Cressy Commercial Real Estate. The approval is a giant step in moving the project forward. A lot of people believing in Benton Harbor have gotten the project to this point including the Cressy team, BH City Officials, BH Brownfield Board, the Cornerstone Alliance Board and of course, the MEDC. We are looking forward to the successful redevelopment of the Harbor Center building.”

Earlier this year, Cornerstone Alliance secured a tentative commitment from Cressy Commercial Real Estate to build more than a dozen apartments and more than 3,000 square feet of commercial space in downtown Benton Harbor, literally right next door to Cornerstone’s own office facility on Main Street. That agreement was contingent upon support from both the City of Benton Harbor and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), which it now has, in addition to the grant revealed today.

With support from the City of Benton Harbor and the State of Michigan, Cressy Commercial Real Estate will redevelop the iconic building at the corner of Pipestone and Main Streets, the epicenter of downtown and on the periphery of the Benton Harbor Arts District.  That building, located at 126 Pipestone, was originally built in 1882 and was launched at the time as the Gray Building. It underwent a facelift in 1961, and has since been referred to as the Harbor Center Building.

Greg Vaughn, who also serves as Vice President of Business Development at Cornerstone Alliance says, “This is a transformational project for the City of Benton Harbor and continues the momentum created by previous residential developments on Main Street and the Arts District.” Vaughn says, “We met initially with the Benton Harbor Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and they understood the dire situation we were facing with the building. Their initial support was key to getting this project underway, so we began an exhaustive search to find a developer willing to redevelop the site. We were just weeks away from having the building demolished, so we’re grateful that Cressy Commercial Real Estate had a vision for the site and spent months trying to find a way to make the project work.”

The project is expected to result in a total capital investment of $3.6 million along with the creation of approximately 22 full-time equivalent jobs.

State Senator Kim LaSata of Bainbridge Township also applauded the action by the Michigan Strategic Fund, saying, “This is an exciting announcement that will help to revitalize a historic and important part of Benton Harbor,” and adding, “Once complete, the upgraded structure will help contribute to what is seen as a year-round destination for great food, inspiring art and family-friendly events.” LaSata notes, “The project’s additional housing and opportunity for new business will only help to make it that much better. I thank the MSF for its continued support in helping make Southwest Michigan a great place to live and work.”

The Benton Harbor Flats development is just the latest in a series of activities in the central business district and elsewhere around the county being made this year. Cornerstone’s Cleveland reminds us, “Developers and builders from throughout the Midwest have made significant investments in Berrien County in 2019, all with the confidence of a solid, long-term return.”

The image accompanying this story on Moody on the Market is an architectural rendering of the proposed new look of the Benton Harbor Flats building once complete.