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Pedestrian bridge between St. Joe & Benton Harbor gets state funding

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- A proposal to bridge the cities of St. Joe and Benton Harbor in a new way just got significant backing from the state.

“This bridge will help span the natural impediment that is the Paw Paw River,” said Cornerstone Alliance President & CEO Rob Cleveland.

Logistically speaking, water is a divider in the St. Joe, Benton Harbor area.

But those behind the plan for this project are hoping to bridge the aquatic gap.

“This pedestrian bridge is going to connect the hotel [and] the new residential development to the arts district, to Harbor Shores, to the Renaissance Athletics Center,” Cleveland said.

A 200-foot-long, 12-foot-wide bridge for walkers, runners, and bikers has just received backing from the state in the form of a $1.2 million grant.

Cleveland, whose organization applied for the grant, said that amount would cover the cost of construction, including making the bridge high enough for boaters to pass under.

“The state grant we received for the pedestrian bridge would not have happened without Whirlpool’s investment in St. Joseph,” he said.

Whirlpool announced in June that it will invest $35 million to update its St. Joseph Technology Center on Upton Drive.

Benton Harbor’s Arts District just up the road continues to grow, as does nearby Harbor Shores.

And add to that another land of opportunity that sits right next to where the bridge would go.

The former industrial property right across the street from Whirlpool’s headquarters is up for sale.

Some students at Andrews University have already dreamed up what could be developed on the waterfront property.

Cleveland said all of this is a sign that a bridge to connect everything makes sense.

“Our vision, long term, is more about the commercial aspect,” he said. “And it’s really about what the community wants.”

So far, the St. Joe community wants it. Their city commission has approved the idea of the bridge.

The Benton Harbor City Commission will vote on it on Monday.

If approved, Cleveland said the goal is to have the bridge built by the time the Senior PGA Championship starts at Harbor Shores in May.

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