Cornerstone Alliance on the hunt for developers

Cornerstone Alliance issued a request for proposal on redevelopment of the former Farmers and Merchants Bank building in downtown Benton Harbor on Tuesday. The organization recently bought the middle segment of the building with the intent of partnering with NBA star Wilson Chandler to restore the building’s exterior.

BENTON HARBOR — Cornerstone Alliance is looking for developers who are interested in renovating the Farmers and Merchants Bank.

On Tuesday, the economic development organization issued a request for proposal on redevelopment of the building in downtown Benton Harbor. The organization announced the project chosen for redevelopment will be eligible for more than $100,000 in cash and incentives. 

The former Farmers and Merchants building was recently bought by Cornerstone Alliance as the organization will begin a $250,000 facade renovation project in June.

Stephanie Scott-Sims, director of Entrepreneurship and Placemaking at Cornerstone, said the plan is to create a destination at the F&M building, which in turn would hopefully bring new people and dollars to Benton Harbor. 

“The F&M Bank building is a prominent site on Main Street,” Scott-Sims in a news release. “Redeveloping this building will support the diverse businesses in the Benton Harbor Arts District and create another destination for the community. We encourage all business owners and developers looking for a new opportunity to reach out to us with their ideas.”

Located at 92 W. Main St., the two-story building has more than 12,500 square feet of available space and is zoned for commercial activity. 

The submission deadline is at 5 p.m. June 14. 

Preference will be given to developers looking to create a destination use that generates activity for residents and tourists on a year-round basis.

Cornerstone’s scope of potential developers includes the food and beverage industry, commercial retail, grocery, mixed use and other for-profit ventures.

Greg Vaughn, chief operating officer and vice president of Business Development for Cornerstone, said the building should be the next space to be redeveloped after the number of historic buildings on Main Street that have been restored.

“For many years, the F&M Building stood as a symbol of economic prosperity in Benton Harbor,” Vaughn said. “Private developers have found success with projects like Sheffield Flats, Saranac Flats, and the Hawks Nest – all redeveloped spaces in downtown Benton Harbor. We’re looking to help the next developer execute a vision for new businesses on Main Street.”

Cornerstone Alliance announced a partnership on May 9 with NBA player Wilson Chandler to renovate the facade of the historic building.

The building first opened in 1888.

Cornerstone Alliance bought a portion of the building in February with the intent of partnering with Chandler to restore the building’s exterior.

Cornerstone officials had considered the restoration project for the past 18 months.

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