Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was in Benton Harbor Aug. 3 to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new 80 unit multi-family housing development. The $20 million project is being funded by Whirlpool Corporation and is being built across the street from the company’s Global Technology Center and across the river from its Riverview Campus.
The development is expected to house around 110 residents when it opens in late 2022, and is also projected to generate up to $100,000 annually in income tax revenue for the city of Benton Harbor.
Whirlpool CEO Marc Bitzer said that outside of quality schools, available rental housing is the biggest hurdle the company currently faces in attracting young professionals and single parents.
“And I’m talking about non-vacation home rental housing,” Bitzer said. “So we can stand here and complain that nobody builds rental apartments, or we can do something about it. And that’s what we decided to do here.”
He also said it is a sense of community responsibility — Whirlpool was founded in Benton Harbor and is still headquartered there.
“If you’re a big company in a small community, you can’t look away,” Bitzer said. “You can’t hide. You’re part of the community.”
Gov. Whitmer said the project is a good example of local entities coming together to solve a problem, and she hopes to see projects like it elsewhere in Michigan.
“I think it’s really exciting — obviously, Whirlpool has been making a huge investment here, working closely with Mayor Muhammad and Congressman Upton,” Whitmer said. “That’s affordable housing, and that’s workforce support and it’s really exciting to see that happen right here.”
Whirlpool announced plans for the development in June after receiving a $750,000 grant from the Michigan Community Revitalization Program. It will primarily be used for related road improvements.
The project is located on the edge of the Paw Paw River close to downtown St. Joseph and downtown Benton Harbor, and is being built on a lot that was previously a used car dealership but has been vacant for 25 years.
The apartments will be rented at market rates, and are available to anyone interested — not just Whirlpool employees.
“Our intention is to have a diverse set of people living here and combining life and work,” Bitzer said.
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