August 26, 2003
LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm and the Whirlpool Corporation today signed over 29 acres of former Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) property to the City of Benton Harbor. The new property becomes part of a major plan to develop and protect the city’s waterfront. The property exchange is also part of the Edgewater Recreational Waterfront Park (ERWP) initiative to provide Benton Harbor with public access to the waterfront areas bounded by Lake Michigan and the Paw Paw and St. Joseph rivers.
“This property will bring vital economic development to Benton Harbor while protecting the natural waterfront,” Granholm said. “This is an example of an important partnership at work with the state, the Whirlpool Corporation, and the Cornerstone Alliance coming together with the City of Benton Harbor to invest in the community and its quality of life.”
The MDOT land was made available due to the reconstruction of M-63 highway. Beginning in the late 1990s, MDOT, along with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), worked with Cornerstone Alliance and the cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph to plan the reconstruction of M-63. Due to the reconfiguration which occurred between the fall of 2000 and summer of 2002, excess interchanges and bridges were eliminated, thereby freeing up state-owned land. To facilitate the transfer of this land to Benton Harbor, Whirlpool Corporation agreed to purchase it from MDOT.
The ERWP plan requires each community to perform specific development within the new property. The plan details are subject to the approval of both city mayors and the chairmen of Whirlpool and Cornerstone Alliance.
Under the current proposal, Benton Harbor developers are to construct ten prairie-style condominiums, 100 one, two and three bedroom unit apartments, a 4-6 storefront development, a bird sanctuary, wetlands, and a prairie.
MDOT and DEQ continue to cooperate with both cities to build a $2.7 million new local street (Edgewater Drive) between the cities adjacent to the railroad and over the Paw Paw River. The construction will be in 2004 with $1 million in MDOT economic development funding and $1.3 million in DEQ’s Clean Michigan Initiative monies.