Investors plan 120-acre development at former plant site


The Windward Pointe redevelopment project at the former Sappi Paper Mill site on Muskegon Lake spans 120 acres. Courtesy Pure Muskegon

An investor group is planning a major redevelopment project that would drastically transform more than a mile of blighted lakeshore property and represent an “eventual investment” of more than “several hundred million dollars.”

Pure Muskegon, an investor group comprising local business and community leaders, announced this afternoon that it has purchased the former Sappi Paper Mill site in Muskegon from Melching, a demolition company.

The group also announced its plans to turn the 120-acre property into Windward Pointe, a mixed-use development featuring residential, commercial and community uses.

Pure Muskegon is identifying key site features and determining the mix of commercial and residential elements for Windward Pointe and will soon begin to solicit development partners and tenants.

“The former Sappi property is, bar none, the most significant component of the master plan for the Muskegon community,” Muskegon Mayor Stephen Gawron said.

Windward Pointe

Located adjacent to the Muskegon Country Club, there are numerous possibilities for Windward Pointe: housing options, mixed-use projects, hotels and resorts, restaurants, retail, offices, marinas, charter fishing and water taxis.

Additionally, Pure Muskegon has outlined the possibility of a residential community with boating access, urban gardening, greenspace, walkability and retail and service businesses.

The development could be also be connected to downtown Muskegon and the lake basin by water and land transportation, including water taxis, a lakeshore trail and railway.

Wes Eklund, a founding member of Pure Muskegon, said the goal is to create a vibrant destination point, “not just in West Michigan, but for the entire Midwest.”

Turning the page

The redevelopment project had to clear a number of legal hurdles and restrictions to reach this point.

For more than a century, the site was home to several manufacturing companies, most recently Sappi Paper Mill, which shuttered the facility in 2009.

The property was sold to Melching, which specializes in deconstructing massive structures, but deed restrictions and use limitations placed by Sappi prevented future non-industrial use of the property.

Additionally, various environmental concerns needed to be addressed, necessitating a legal administrative agreement to be completed between several involved parties.

As such, Pure Muskegon worked with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan Attorney General and the City of Muskegon to lift the deed restrictions, complete environmental remediations and complete the property purchase from Melching.

The legal administrative agreement between the Michigan Attorney General, MDEQ, Sappi Paper, Melching and Pure Muskegon now facilitates the cleanup and redevelopment of the property.

The agreement triggers the property transfer and approval of a $1 million MDEQ brownfield grant to assist in the removal of the remaining smokestacks.

Over the next year, Melching will continue demolition of the remaining structures, including subsurface foundations and infrastructure.

“This is vision, cooperation and public-private partnership on a grand scale and the bold redevelopment plans for this abandoned property embody the spirit of both the Muskegon community and our state as a whole,” Michigan Senator Goeff Hansen said.

“Windward Pointe is becoming a reality, because of the hometown pride and ingenuity of a group of Michiganders who saw this property not as it had been — a barren industrial site with no future — but as it could be — an expansive piece of lakefront property that can transform a community and become a top ‘Pure Michigan’ destination.”

Pure Muskegon

Formed in 2013, Pure Muskegon aims to reinvigorate the Muskegon community through the transformation and redevelopment of the former Sappi Paper Mill property into Windward Pointe.

A number of members make up Pure Muskegon: Larry Hines, Mike Olthoff, Don Tjarksen, Trip Johnson, Steve Olson, John Workman, Greg Olson, Don Kettler, Wes Eklund, Dn Kuznar, Gregg Slager, Chris Witham and the Paul C. Johnson Foundation.

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