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Cornerstone Alliance releases plans to improve mobility on St. Joseph River, attract businesses and visitors

NOW: Cornerstone Alliance releases plans to improve mobility on St. Joseph River, attract businesses and visitors

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ST. JOSEPH, Mich. – Leaders in Berrien County believe a new proposal will attract new business, bring in more visitors, and improve mobility on the St. Joseph River.

The plan would create or rebuild waterfront infrastructure, like boat or kayak launches, at four sites In St. Joseph and Benton Harbor.

“This will be a great opportunity for a small business who are interested in being entrepreneurial and creating new amenities and new things to do will be a huge asset for our community,” said Cornerstone Alliance President Rob Cleveland.

Cornerstone Alliance, in partnership with Berrien County Community Development and Abonmarche, designed the proposal based off of findings from the 2015 Twin Cities Harbor Study and the 2018 Sustainable Harbors Initiative. Those studies called for improvements in development, transportation, connectivity, environment, and government.

Cleveland says the infrastructure will help recruit harbor related businesses like water taxis and river cruises.

The goal is to capitalize on the Twin Cities’ greatest natural resource while making it easier for people to explore the area.

“It adds another unique element for people who maybe just want to try and get out on the water, people want to take potentially a river cruise, things like that, who want to experience the water a little bit, dip their tors in the water if you may, on those kinds of activities,” said Cleveland.

The first site next to the Inn at Harbor Shores will allow for a home port for multiple water-related business ventures.

Plans for a dock at the second site at the east basin would allow people to park north of the river then be taxied to the arboretum side of the river with access to Silver Beach Park and downtown St. Joseph.

Cornerstone says the third site near the Berrien County Courthouse would encourage the public to support downtown St. Joseph merchants.

The last site is along Riverview Drive. There are plans for a boat launch and ADA accessible kayak launch.

“I absolutely love it,” said Kelsey Cheyne. “I think that there’s so much potential.”

Cheyne thinks it will benefit visitors and residents.

“You could be hanging out at the yacht club or even at Planks and then you hop on the river cruise and go down to Babes,” said Cheyne. “I mean I think that’s huge and I just think it opens up the community in such a different way.”

St. Joe City Commissioners signed off on the proposal on Monday. It now needs approval from the Berrien County Commissioners. Commissioners will vote on the project at the Feb. 21 meeting.

If approved, the county would apply for a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Waterways grant. The deadline for the application is April 1. The project is estimated to cost between $350,000 and $450,000. Cornerstone Alliance would provide $150,000 of the matching funds required for the grant.

Cleveland says if the county wins the money, construction could start as early as spring 2020 and finish up by that summer.

“I think that it’s really going to take off the second that it gets implemented,” said Cheyne. “I think you’re going to see more than four stops and it’s going to continue up the river.”

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