A work in progress

Workers replace the mortar Monday on a column of the historic Farmers and Merchants Bank in Benton Harbor. Half of the building is owned by Cornerstone Alliance, with the other half owned by NBA player Wilson Chandler.

BENTON HARBOR — The restoration of the historic Farmers and Merchants Bank on Main Street in Benton Harbor is chugging along, as workers restore the facade to its original splendor, said Greg Vaughn, chief operating officer and vice president at Cornerstone Alliance.

Now they are looking at plans two developers have submitted for how the building can be used.

“We have a couple proposals from a couple developers who are interested in doing some creative things on the interior of the building,” he said. “... If one or both have legs, we’ll keep them moving forward and see if we can come together to figure out which one’s the best – which one would add the most vitality to the downtown area.

He said they will review the proposals in the next week or so.

“We’re just trying to breathe more vitality into the downtown area. When you see those buildings sitting there vacant, that’s not happening,” he said. “When we moved here to Main Street, that was one of our objectives – to try to breathe life into the downtown area.”

He said Cornerstone Alliance did a lot of work to get the Arts District up and running.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t move to Main Street as fast as we had hoped it would do,” he said. “... The key to us is to have something that will entice people to visit downtown Benton Harbor.”

Cornerstone Alliance owns part of the former bank building, while NBA player Wilson Chandler owns another part. He said Cornerstone Alliance partnered with Chandler to renovate the entire facade. Vaughn said he doesn’t know what Chandler plans to do with his portion of the building.

Cornerstone Alliance also owns the former Harbor Center on the east side of its new headquarters on Main Street. That building is being sold to Cressy Commercial Real Estate. That company plans to refurbish the building with 14 apartments upstairs and two businesses on the ground floor.

“We will basically have a block on Main Street refurbished within a year-and-a-half or two – hopefully sooner,” he said. “... There’s some good things happening in Benton Harbor on the horizon.” 

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege