by Lynn Moore, Chronicle

MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – An $8.5 million mixed-use apartment complex with a restaurant is planned for an “amazing” location in downtown Whitehall.

The four-story complex is planned for the Colby Street hill at the corner of Lake Street overlooking White Lake, the city’s marina, and Goodrich Park. The 25 apartments will each have a balcony as well as a water view, said Chris Veneklasen, CEO of Veneklasen Construction and Veneklasen Development.

His two firms are working on the project that has several other investors with ties to the White Lake area, Veneklasen told MLive/Muskegon Chronicle. He has a cottage on White Lake. “Everyone has an emotional tie to the area,” Veneklasen said of the investment group. “Everyone wants to see the area prosper.”

Construction begins mid-2023

The site at 201 W. Colby Street and 115 Lake Street is the former location of the Pinheads bowling alley, which had been torn down five years before the investment group, 115 Lake St. LLC, purchased the property in 2021. “It represents a great opportunity,” Veneklasen said. “It’s an amazing spot.”Construction is expected to begin later this spring or early summer, he said. Completion is expected to take about a year.

The Whitehall Planning Commission approved the site plan last summer and the Whitehall City Council in May 2022 agreed to a commercial rehabilitation property tax abatement. But when the investment group ran into financial snags, the council agreed to rescind the tax abatement. Now that finances are back on track, the council will be asked again to approve the abatement. That abatement would direct most of the increase in property tax revenue resulting from the development back to the developers as part of the financing package.

The property currently generates about $3,000 per year in property taxes, Whitehall City Manager Scott Huebler told MLive/The Muskegon Chronicle. With the development, annual property taxes would grow to an estimated $70,000, which local taxing entities will collect once the anticipated 10-year abatement concludes, according to information provided to the council last year.

Designed with the needs of the community in mind

The city is already receiving inquiries from people interested in living in the apartments, Huebler said. The building will include covered ground-level parking for residents, space for retail and possibly offices, and a restaurant with outdoor seating and garage doors opening up the space to the outdoors, Veneklasen said.

The restaurant will face Colby and the lake. Two retail spaces, one already reserved by a “neighborhood service-oriented industry", will front Colby, Veneklasen said. The site is next to the White Lake Pathway paved trail and adjacent to a new park the city is planning to develop at Lake and Colby streets.

The market-rate apartments will be developed with professionals in mind who currently work in the Whitehall/Montague area but live in Muskegon, Veneklasen said. “We’ve done a housing needs assessment and there absolutely is a need for housing in the Whitehall/Montague area. Residential options are especially lacking in downtown Whitehall," he said.

“We’re just really excited to get it off the ground,” Veneklasen said. “That site’s been sitting vacant for a long time. There’s a lot of exciting things going on in Whitehall and we feel it’s the perfect time to bring something like this to the area.”

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