SOUTH HAVEN — South Haven community leaders joined developers James Slott and his sister Nicole Slott in a ceremonial ground-breaking Monday for Black River Barn, a large, rustic lodge-style event building that will be located on 13.5 acres of land on 73rd Street near 8th Avenue, in South Haven Township.

“South Haven is a beautiful town with a rich history and idyllic landscape,” Nicole Slott said. “We’re thrilled to be part of the community. We’re hoping to be open in November. Right now we’re on track.”

When finished, the 11,000-square-foot building will include a 5,400-square-foot main hall for dining and dancing, indoor and outdoor space for various ceremonies, a caterer’s kitchen, audio/visual system, and private bride and groom suites. Outside, the venue’s covered and open-air patios will include fire pits.

The Slotts, who represent Ilios LLC from Grand Rapids, had considered developing a special event venue in Grand Rapids, but soon changed their minds, according to Nicole Slott.

“They already have quite a few so we began looking toward the lakeshore,” she said.

The Slotts were familiar with South Haven and began searching for suitable sites.

“In our research and planning, we identified a lack of locations in this area that can accommodate larger groups,” James Slott said.

The Slotts finally found the spot they were looking for in South Haven Township, purchased the property a year ago, and began clearing it this year after the township planning commission rezoned the site for a planned unit development.

The Slotts are investing more than $3.8 million to develop the venue, according to South Haven Township Supervisor Ross Stein.

“I think this will be wonderful for the community,” Stein said. “We’re not looking at borders (between the township and the city) anymore but the community as a whole.”

Other community leaders agreed the new venue will be a plus.

“We’ve had a need for a long, long time for a large venue to hold large gatherings,” said Kathy Wagaman, executive director of the South Haven Area Chamber of Commerce. “We get calls for reunions, weddings and corporate seminars and retreats and people end up having to go elsewhere.” 

Because Black River Barn will be open year-round, it can help boost the town’s local economy during the shoulder seasons and winter months, according to Deb Davidson, South Haven Downtown Development Authority director.

“Something like this (a venue for large-scale events) is absolutely critical to this area,” she said. “It will bring people here during the off-season which is what we strive for.”