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Plans unveiled for Muskegon paper mill redevelopment

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MUSKEGON, Mich. – An industrial eye sore is finally on its way out. Redevelopment plans were revealed today on the Sappi paper mill site in Muskegon.

They call for more than $200,000,000 to cleanup and redevelop the area. The new site will be called ‘Windward Pointe’. It’s a huge development featuring both housing and retail, a total overhaul of the once contaminated paper mill

But what it exactly will be is not set in stone just yet, however basic plans are taking shape.

“It’s going to transform the property,” Says Wes Eklund, president of fleet engineers. “From what could have been a scrap yard where ships were demolished, into a community full of residential and commercial development. It will be exciting for Muskegon and West Michigan.”

The current site is in rough shape, with twisted metal hanging from buildings cut in half, and debris everywhere. But once the site is cleared, Winward Pointe will take advantage of the lake shore property covering 120 acres.

“The property in my mind is large enough to accommodate multiple ideas.” Said Stephen Gawron, Mayor of the city of Muskegon.

Pure Muskegon, the group in charge of the development, envisions condos and single family homes, built along Muskegon lake. There could also be a hotel and resort, a marina, charter fishing, and water taxis. Developers say the sky is the limit, and they want to take advantage of the lake.

Phase-I is cleaning up the site which will start right away and should take a few months to complete. The crucial part is removing the two big smokestacks that have asbestos in them. To help, there’s a $1,000,000 grant from the Michigan department of environmental quality.

“There is some paint on the exterior of the stacks that contain somewhere between 2 and 3 percent asbestos. And the asbestos has to be removed from the stacks before the stacks can be taken down.” Eklund said.

Built in 1900, the Sappi paper mill closed in 2009 and demolition began in 2013. But deed restrictions and other legal complications stalled the removal.

“We’ve spent all of our efforts for the past 3 years getting through all the hurdles and all the negotiations with layers of attorneys and state agencies in an attempt to reach an agreement.” Eklund said.

The project should be a significant economic boost for the area. Property values will likely go up, jobs are expected to be created, and tourism should also go up.

Once everything check out on the environmental side, developers will have a better idea of what exactly Wayward Pointe will be.

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