Harbor Flats to bring new apartments, business space to Benton Harbor

Published: Oct. 25, 2019 at 5:56 PM EDT
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New life is being given to a historic building in downtown Benton Harbor.

“This building was originally built in the 1880s. It’s had several different uses. There’s actually a small vault in the building still," Cornerstone Alliance President Rob Cleveland said.

The former Harbor Center will have yet another purpose in the year 2020. Cornerstone Alliance is spearheading its renovation.

“That’ll bring more people to support the many restaurants and the businesses we have down here, both in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph,” he continued.

Cressy Commercial Real Estate now owns the building and started construction on the $3.6 million project this week. The plan is to have the new Harbor Flats open by next fall, with commercial space on the first floor and about 15 apartments on the second floor, Cressy CEO Chris Fielding said.

Cleveland said the apartments will likely be studio and one-bedroom, but two-bedroom options could be possible.

“Benton Harbor has a perception issue and any kind of positive development, renovations, physical improvements – it helps see the town in a different light," retired, longtime resident and landlord Kenneth Ankli said.

“We need housing all over," resident Cosntance Adams added.

The building is across from the city’s Arts District, a place Adams calls “the other side of Main Street.”

“I mean, it’s like night and day," she said. "There are other housing and apartment opportunities over there, but then on this side of the street you have lots of rundown buildings, space that could be revitalized.”

The Harbor Flats project is happening thanks to city, local and state partners including Cornerstone, the Benton Harbor Downtown Redevelopment Authority and the Brownfield Redevelopment Group.

Fielding said the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians invested in the renovation. The state of Michigan also awarded a $1.5 million grant last month through the Michigan Strategic Fund.

“There aren’t too many towns that were vacated the way Benton Harbor was, so it’s a blank canvas," Ankli said.

“It’s nice to see these old vacated places come back to life," new resident Dave Brown said.

State Rep. Pauline Wendzel has supported the renovation and construction efforts. She sent the following statement to 16 News Now:

"This project is creating about twenty good-paying jobs and bringing a dozen market-rate apartments and several thousand square feet of commercial space to Downtown Benton Harbor. This project will serve as a catalyst for future development in Benton Harbor and wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of the Cornerstone Alliance, Cressy Commercial Real Estate, the Benton Harbor City Commission, and the Michigan Strategic Fund. Working together, we’re making our community a better place to work, play, and grow."