SOUTH HAVEN — Randy Locker is a busy man these days.
The South Haven-based developer just finished renovating two historic downtown buildings that now house three new businesses and is in the midst of converting the former Save-a-Lot grocery store on Broadway Avenue into a strip mall.
In the midst of all of that, he’s probably tackling the biggest project he’s undertaken yet – redevelopment of the Hale block, a conglomeration of older buildings that occupy Center Street, from Quaker to Phoenix streets, in downtown South Haven.
Locker purchased the buildings earlier this year from the Hale family, who ran one of Michigan’s oldest independently ran department stores for 154 years at 257 Center Street before closing it in 2009. The three store fronts Hale’s occupied on the Hale block have remained empty ever since, while the space occupied by eight other businesses along the block need upgrades.
A number of people in town have referred to the block as “an eyesore.” But Locker viewed it differently.
“There is so much opportunity here,” he said.
The Hale block is anchored by a historic three-story brick building at the corner of Center and Quaker streets. To the south of the building are a series of one and two-story buildings that are home to eight retail shops that include a jewelry store, pet boutique and clothing stores.
The three-story building caught Locker’s attention immediately.
“I just fell in love with it,” he said, pointing to the second and third stories that at one time served as apartments. “The upper levels have high ceilings, tall windows, great views.”
Locker plans to restore the building, which was built at the turn of the 19th century. The improvements will include cleaning the brick exterior, putting up new facades for the stores, installing new windows, and creating either apartments or condominiums on the second and third floors.
His other plans for the block involve tearing down the three Hale storefronts, which occupy the center of the block, and improving the rest of the buildings that are located on Center and a small portion of Phoenix.
“There’s been a lot of neglect over the years,” he said. “It (improvements) will take time and money. But I think over the next 24 months there will be a big change for the better.”
Locker is no stranger to retail development projects in South Haven.
Several decades ago he purchased a historic two-story building on Quaker Street and restored it. He then turned his attention to building Locker Plaza on Phoenix Road and Veterans Boulevard. Next he purchased the former police and fire department building at the corner of Broadway and Quaker Street, tore down the structure and built a new strip mall.
His latest endeavor downtown entailed purchase of two historic buildings on Phoenix Street, downtown, that housed the former Macdonald Drug Store and Quiznos sub shop. He created three retail spaces on the first floor that are now occupied by Harbor Light Brewery, Mi Coast apparel shop and Gravity Wine Tasting Room. The upstairs, when finished, will be home to four apartments.
Two blocks away at 237 Broadway, Locker is in the midst of converting the former Save-a-Lot store into five commercial units. He hopes to have that project completed by the end of this year.