BENTON HARBOR — Plans to build a restaurant with a ballroom at Jean Klock Park are moving ahead after the project’s feasibility study showed interest, Don and Barbara Meeks of Benton Township said during Wednesday’s Benton Harbor Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting.
They said building the project for the city is a labor of love.
“I have never in my life done anything like this,” said Don Meeks, who operated Don Meeks Construction in Benton Harbor for decades before retiring and is now a Berrien County commissioner. “... My life is dedicated to Benton Harbor. I won’t see the use of this. I’ll be gone. But I have eight grandkids that’s here. They’re in the city and they go to Benton Harbor schools. I want to leave something for them, here, and also your kids.”
Barbara Meeks said they estimate it will cost $7 million to build.
“The reason for all this planning is so our children’s children’s children can benefit from it,” she said.
Don Meeks said the restaurant would have a beautiful view of Lake Michigan.
Benton Harbor city commissioners passed a resolution of support for the project last fall, pending a feasibility study, after the Meeks presented the plan to them. The Meeks said they are tentatively calling the project Beaches Restaurant and the Dunes Ballroom.
According to the plans, the three-story structure would be built over the existing concession stand and restrooms. Brick towers on the sides would each hold an elevator and stairs.
Don Meeks said the first and second floors would each have 10,000 square feet of space, with the third floor of 2,500 square feet housing the administrative offices and a VIP lounge called the Crow’s Nest.
On the first floor would be the main kitchen, dining room, bar and entertainment stage. The second floor would hold the ballroom, with seating for up to 500 guests.
“I see some wonderful possibilities,” said city Commissioner MaryAlice Adams, who sits on the committee.
After the meeting, Don Meeks said the next step is to meet with the city manager and other city officials to work out the details. He said he has people ready to back the project financially. He said they are also planning to apply for state grants. He said the building would be owned by the city since it would be built on city property. He said they would need at least a 50-year lease to make the project feasible.
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