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Local developer plans to buy Muskegon Lake paper mill site for ‘transformational’ housing

Posted By: mlive on September 21, 2023.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

A prominent local developer has plans to purchase and redevelop the sprawling Windward Pointe former paper mill site on Muskegon Lake.

Jon Rooks entered a purchase agreement in July for the 122-acre “Windward Pointe” site on Lakeshore Drive that once was home to the Sappi paper mill, Rooks said in an email to MLive/The Muskegon Chronicle.

His plans are to develop a wide variety of housing on the site as well as a marina and multiple public access points. Residential units will range from studio apartments renting for less than $1,000 per month to sprawling homes worth $800,000.

The property that includes more than a mile of prime Muskegon Lake frontage was an industrial site for 120 years, operating as a paper mill from 1889 until Sappi Fine Paper shut it down in 2009. It currently is owned by a group of local investors called Pure Muskegon.

“The Sappi Paper Mill (Windward Pointe) redevelopment requires a purchaser with the ‘know how’ and experience performing similar types of projects,” Rooks wrote. “We felt an obligation to the community to pursue this acquisition and continue what Pure Muskegon started.”

Rooks’ Parkland Properties is taking on another ambitious Muskegon redevelopment project with the $220 million repurposing of the dilapidated former Shaw Walker furniture factory. There, he plans to construct 378 living units as well as retail space.

Rooks said his plans for the Windward Pointe property include:

Rooks wrote that he hopes to begin development in spring 2024, starting with development of roads and the sale of building sites.

“Our expectation is that we will start with the homesites adjacent to the water and work backward toward Lakeshore Drive,” Rooks wrote.

The site is currently undergoing cleanup of PFAS contaminants that is being funded by a $15 million state grant. The PFAS, known as “forever chemicals,” has been slowly leaching into Muskegon Lake, a member of the property ownership group said earlier.

The property is owned by the Pure Muskegon group of 13 local investors that purchased the Sappi property in 2016 and have been searching for a developer to take on the massive property. Pure Muskegon had developed potential plans for the property that included multiple housing units, boat basins, hotel and other commercial uses.

The lakefront site previously was owned by Melching, a Nunica demolition firm, that bought the property in 2011 and slowly dismantled the 1-million-square foot paper mill. Melching had planned to find an industrial reuse for it until Pure Muskegon stepped in.

The site is in a key location between Muskegon’s Lakeside Business District and its Pere Marquette beach. The redevelopment joins other major Muskegon Lake projects that are underway.

The Adelaide Pointe development, where a marina and large boat storage building are under construction, will include condominiums, a hotel, restaurant, event center and additional storage buildings.

Also underway is construction of the Viridian Shores neighborhood and Harbor Terrace Senior Living facility as part of the $130 million mixed-use Harbor 31 development that also includes a marina, hotel, apartments and boat sales. In addition, The Docks is a development on the west end of the lake that includes plans for about 250 homes and marina. So far, an access road has been developed at The Docks. The city of Muskegon spent $2 million to purchase 2 miles of unused railroad tracks, including some that run across the former paper mill property that were believed to be hindering its development. Those tracks are in the process of being removed.

Rooks has a proven track record in Muskegon, having developed the HighPoint Flats apartment and commercial high rise in downtown Muskegon and the Terrace Point Landing subdivision on Muskegon Lake.

His Parkland Properties also owns the Delta by Marriott Hotels in downtown Muskegon as well as Terrace Point Marina, Shoreline Inn and Conference Center, and Lake House Waterfront Grille on Muskegon Lake.

Parkland worked with the city to develop the VanDyk Mortgage Convention Center, which the company manages, and developed its offices in the old downtown fire station.

“At their peaks, both the Sappi Paper Mill (Windward Pointe) and Shaw Walker Furniture Company each employed thousands of people and were assets for Muskegon and the greater lakeshore area.,” Rooks wrote in his email. “We believe repurposing these important sites into much needed housing developments will have a transformational, generational impact on not only Muskegon, but the entire West Michigan region.”

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