|History of Harbor Shores Development|
The Benton Harbor community , like other Midwest areas, saw an exodus of manufacturing employment in the 1980’s. Over one 18 month period, on a tract of land encompassing 600 acres at the intersection between the cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, 6 manufacturing concerns closed their doors resulting in a loss of over 5,500 high-wage low-skill jobs.
Despite these challenges one common denominator remained in the community. People knew by working together, they could bring about positive change for the area. In the late 1980’s, a host of community and business leaders commissioned a study to bring about new jobs, new housing and new recreational opportunities to the community.
A long-term comprehensive strategic direction was agreed upon. At the heart of the effort were recommendations to initiate redevelopment in key locations throughout the community, with a special emphasis on the city of Benton Harbor. The study concluded physical change had to begin in the core downtown area of Benton Harbor and then to the neighborhoods, one street, one home at a time. Once the area began to show positive change, the strategy recommended focusing on the approximately 600 acre area to once again serve as the economic hub of the region.
Countless individuals and organizations rallied around this study with the recognition of collective “can do” spirit. Leaders realized financial resources and volunteerism needed to be channeled through various structures to bring about change within the community. The first being the Community Economic Development Corporation, later know as Cornerstone Alliance, that became the largest per capita privately funded economic development organization in the country.
The Common Denominator
As development opportunities began to take hold, that same common denominator of individuals willing to work together helped bring about new organizations to deal with the capacity building issues in the community. Council for World-Class Communities, Citizen’s for Progressive Change, Community Partnership for Lifelong Learning, and Alliance for World-Class Communities were formed throughout the new millennium. Although, the organizations have uniquely different focuses, they share that same common ingredient of people willing to work together to pool their resources and talents to bring about change for the individuals most in need.
Throughout Cornerstone Alliance’s over 20 years in existence; the only thing that has remained the same is the organization’s dedication to “Building the Community Through Partnerships.” This philosophy also allowed the organization and its many partners to accomplish many goals set forth by the community. Some of the major accomplishments of the organization include:
Today, one of the most notable physical changes is in the quality of housing opportunities within the City of Benton Harbor, thanks in large part to the efforts of Harbor Habitat for Humanity and the HOPE VI project.
In Benton Harbor and Benton Township, Harbor Habitat for Humanity (HHFH) has partnered with families to build more than 77 decent, simple, safe and affordable homes since its founding in 1995. In the summer of 2005, Benton Harbor was one of two host cities for the Jimmy Carter Work Project, which resulted in the construction of 24 new homes.
Physical changes are taking place thanks to the HOPE VI project. The grant was awarded in 2004 by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. A project co-developed by Cornerstone Alliance for the Benton Harbor Housing Commission, the HOPE VI federal grant will significantly improve public housing conditions and will bring over 250 new homes to Benton Harbor.
To truly change a community, the foundation must go beyond economic development. It must also incorporate community development initiatives. Examples include:
It is truly an exciting time as the foundation has been laid for community transformation. A once in a lifetime development opportunity, called Harbor Shores, is about to launch, and additional plans are being put into action to create change. Now, all that needs to happen is for each resident to take advantage of the opportunities being placed before them.