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Cold weather, hot real estate at Harbor Shores

December 9, 2009 - By Evan Goodenow, Herald Palladium

Powell Construction Service workers on Tuesday began work on the first cottage in the Harbor Shores project. Developers hope to build some 800 units. Evan Goodenow / H-P staff
BENTON HARBOR - In the spring it will be a 2,200-square-foot cottage for someone who can afford to spend about $400,000 for a second home.

But on Tuesday it was just a muddy hole in cold ground that construction workers were beginning work on. The 36-by-60-foot foundation for the first residence to be built in the Harbor Shores golf, residential and resort project is a tiny part of what developers hope will be a foundation in the rejuvenation of Benton Harbor.

In 2007, developers said the 530-acre Harbor Shores project, with a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course and an envisioned 860 residential units, would create 4,000 jobs while generating $630 million in consumer spending and $50 million in tax revenue during construction and development. After construction -- scheduled for completion by 2012 - developers predicted the creation of 2,000 ongoing jobs, more than $140 million annually in new consumer spending and more than $30 million in annual tax revenue.

PWorkers from Powell set a foundation wall. Evan Goodenow / H-P staff
But that was before the housing bubble burst and the current recession began. Nonetheless, contractor Greg Powell of Powell Construction Services remains confident there is a market, based on the number of people who have expressed interest in the homes.

"I wouldn't be building them if there wasn't," Powell said as a crane lowered 4-by-12-foot concrete panels into the foundation along Higman Park Road just east of Michigan 63. "There's been a very high level of interest."

Powell hopes the first home will be one of 27 cottages in the first phase of the project, with 58 to be built eventually. He anticipates building three or four more in the spring. His firm has the contract for all 58 cottages.

But for now, there is a cold, hard job ahead as up to 80 workers brave the elements building the first cottage. Powell hopes it's completed by the end of April. "I could go quicker, but being the first one, we want to take our time," he said.

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