Project pitched for Berrien Hills site

A developer has approached St. Joseph Township officials about a large multi-faceted proposal for the Berrien Hills Golf Club site, which is for sale. The 88-acre property along the river is prone to spring flooding, a problem that is being extensively studied, the developer said.

ST. JOSEPH — St. Joseph Township officials on Wednesday gave their collective nod of approval for a preliminary development concept for the Berrien Hills Golf Club property. The club is closing and the land is for sale.

John Houseal of the Chicago-based planning firm Houseal Lavigne said the proposed development would include houses, townhouses, senior villas, apartments, a medical/wellness facility, restaurants, a preschool and day-care and a park open to the public.

However, township officials and residents at the meeting noted, there are major hurdles, the largest being that the property is prone to flooding. Houseal said planners and engineers are aware of that. “We do know that fill would be needed, and we’re working through that. There’s some hard site planning yet to come.” Houseal acknowledged that the engineering issues are “large.”

Houseal gave a presentation to the St. Joseph Township Board and the planning commission in a joint special meeting, and said he wanted to get feedback before moving ahead with preparing a formal application he hopes to present in February to initiate the process. The approval process would involve public hearings before the planning commission, which would then make a recommendation to the township board.

Also on hand were Jay Patel, vice president of acquisitions and Lee Winter, director of development for Kaufman Jacobs, a Chicago-based real estate development company. They said talks are underway to purchase the 88-acre property that has 3,000 feet of river frontage, but it’s not a done deal.

Houseal grew up in St. Joseph and told the township officials, “When I heard about this there was no way I could not be a part of it. I want it to be done right.” He said although there is no formal timeline at this point, he would expect the development would be built in phases, over four or five years. 

He said the development would fit in well with the township’s latest master plan, developed in 2017. 

Township Supervisor Roger Seely said the proposed development would present “a great opportunity for the township.”

Officials did not vote on anything at Wednesday’s special meeting, but most raised their hands in a nod of support for the concept.

Contact: jswidwa@TheHP.com, 932-0359, Twitter: @HPSwidwa