Muskegon takes risk to revive downtown

Posted at 5:45 PM, Jun 14, 2016

MUSKEGON, Mich.--  After waiting more than a decade for private investors, the city of Muskegon is now taking the fate of its downtown into its own hands. They’re moving forward with a unique plan to revitalize and rebuild downtown despite the risks.

The city is stepping outside the box by buying up properties and land to develop homes and sell them. They purchased a plot of land south of downtown by 4th and Houston. They built nine houses that they are planning to sell for $160,000-$180,000.

The single family homes are just a part of their plan to sustain their downtown and bring in more middle class people and families to the area. They recently purchased on 1st Street, an old five-story bank building and an eight-story building, that they might develop into apartments or multi-use buildings one day.

“I think people have been expecting us to have some sort of leadership in moving the city forward,” said the City Manager Frank Peterson.

Peterson said they are sick of waiting around for the private sector to invest, so they are taking matters into their own hands. Peterson admits it’s a risky endeavor.

“I would say riskier than a lot of other things we could have done with it, but really at the end of the day, we recognize that this is our community, right? And someone needs to step up and show that there is viable investment opportunity there,” said Peterson.

Peterson said they have vacant buildings and lots, but they don’t have any actual market-rate apartments for people to occupy. Peterson said the next step is to move the city in a direction towards that.

Right now, Muskegon’s low income housing outnumbers market-value housing 4-to-1. Even if they don’t sell all the homes they built for as much as they want, there are still rewards for the city.

“Where a developer would just build a house and sell it and walk away from it, we can build a house and sell it and if there is any level of subsidy there, we can make that up in future property tax earnings and income tax earnings,” said Peterson.