MUSKEGON, MI — A ground breaking was recently held for the six-story mixed-use building, The Leonard, after construction was delayed earlier this year.
The Leonard is being constructed at the corner of Western Avenue and Second Street. Construction on the 51,565-square-foot building initially was expected to begin in fall 2018, and was postponed once to May 2019 and again to March 2020.
This is a $9.2 million project, according Corey Leonard, owner of Sweetwater Development, which broke ground Nov. 9.
The project includes retail space, residential apartments and office space.
Dave Alexander, business development manager for Muskegon’s Downtown Development Authority, was not surprised at the project’s timeline.
“I’ve been watching the evolution of the project over time and buildings this big in towns like Muskegon take this kind of time to come into fruition so that is not surprising,” said Alexander.
According to Leonard, who the building is named after, projects “like this always takes longer than what people think.” Now that construction has begun, he said the building has a November 2021 opening date.
The most recent cause of construction delays are due to funding challenges related to COVID-19. Leonard said Chemical Bank elected to postpone all funding for similar developments. However, Leonard “didn’t want to wait.”
“There was never any issue with funding other than COVID hitting and the original bank said that they wanted to postpone closing for six months,” he said.
In order to get the project off the ground without further delay, Leonard chose to move forward with funding from Honor Credit Union of Berrien Springs in March.
In December 2019, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved a $1.5 million incentive to assist Sweetwater Development Partners, LLC in constructing the building. The development will be in a vacant area of the former Muskegon Mall.
According to Alexander, the site one of the final pieces of vacant property left to be developed since the mall’s 2003 demolition.
The building is set to include one floor of commercial spaces, two floors of offices and three floors dedicated to 18 apartments. The first floor will include a combination of 600-square-foot shops retail shops and restaurants, with the possibility of a credit union, Leonard told MLive.
BigSigns.com, Leonard’s events graphics company out of Grand Haven, will occupy space on the third floor. Developers are actively searching for a take-out restaurant as well. Leonard said the developers are also taking some of the parking on the east side of the building on Second Street where they will add an outdoor patio.
“(It) will really give a nice visual appeal to that corner kind of give it real curb appeal and activity,” said Leonard. “I think it will add a lot to the downtown area, to the vibe.”
According to the developer, “the demand is very high” for apartments, with over 150 people having expressed interest, however they have not begun the application process. Leonard is hopeful the apartments will be ready for move in before November 2021.
Leonard, who is from Muskegon, has said he plans to also add a second building in the area, with condos instead of apartments. He has the option to develop the rest of the block, between First and Second streets.
A graduate of Reeths-Puffer High School, Leonard operates an events graphics company, BigSigns.com, out of Grand Haven. He previously developed 605 W. Western Ave., the site of Muskegon Radiology.
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