Benton Harbor, St. Joseph resort plan secures some funding

Jun 27, 2012

St. Joseph-based developer Edgewater Resources is reportedly in the process of raising $70 million for a new resort on the city's river.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Edgewater is moving forward with the $22.5 million first phase, thanks in part to a $8.5 million loan from a local credit union that it is completing. The loan would be one of the largest ever made by United Federal Credit Union, which was founded in 1949 by five Whirlpool employees. Most of the remaining financing will come from Ron Schults, the founder of Edgewater, and his firm, Mr. Schults says.

The Edgewater project is part of a much bigger vision for some 530 acres of former industrial property that partly overlooks Lake Michigan named Harbor Shores.

Spearheading the larger project is Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment Inc., a non-profit partnership between the Alliance for World-Class Communities, Cornerstone Alliance, the Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool Foundation and others. According to the group's website, the project is focused on reinvesting in the economically troubled area.

The website says,

Harbor Shores is a unique opportunity to revitalize the Benton Harbor and St. Joseph community and transform the area from a quaint twin city area along Lake Michigan’s waterfront to take its place among the hottest vacation destinations in the Midwest.

However, as Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reported in May, not everyone in the twin cities sees the project as economic progress:

"People here either support Whirlpool, because of the economic investment it brings, or they're against Whirlpool – a successful company they say is taking advantage of a city that’s desperate for cash and jobs.

'I would like to see Whirlpool pack up and leave here,' longtime activist Reverend Edward Pinkney said. He’s wearing his signature T-shirt. It reads, 'Whirlpool commits crimes against humanity.'

'Whirlpool has outsourced jobs and closed factories, and that’s a major crime,' Pinkney said.

But Whirlpool says it has 4,000 employees in the community - more than at any other time.

Pinkney says there’s no way a golf course and luxury housing development can make up for the manufacturing jobs Whirlpool moved overseas. And other protestors say they’re frustrated they don’t qualify for the mostly white collar jobs," Smith reported.

According to the Harbor Shores development website, once complete, the $575 million project will include 800 residential units, 45,000 square feet of retail space, up to 200 hotel rooms, an indoor water park, a conference center and 83 acres of new parkland and public space, along with an 18-hole golf course, which was completed in 2010.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom