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Downtown Manistee project

MANISTEE, Mich. — Plans unveiled last week to city officials will give a facelift to transform the entry into downtown Manistee, Mich., a city on the shores of Lake Michigan. The planned development was presented by Little River Holdings and CL Real Estate Development to the Manistee City Council.

Called the Spirit of the Woods Manistee Gateway Project, the development will reshape and reinvent the gateway to River Street, the main street that runs parallel to the Manistee River that flows within walking distance to Lake Michigan.

Little River Holdings is the non-gaming economic development corporation of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians that is based in Manistee.

"This development is part of a continued economic development diversification for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians that aims to create new revenue sources for the tribe and future generations,” Ogema Larry Romanelli said. "It's great to see the cooperation and collaboration to get this project going that will be truly transformational to the community."

The project will create a 97,000-square-foot upscale boutique hotel with 100 rooms and amenities that will provide views of one of Manistee’s most important assets, the Manistee River. The hotel will feature a rooftop bar with scenic views, meeting rooms and banquet space, indoor and outdoor pools and a fitness room, and public plaza next to the Riverwalk for outdoor events. Parking for the hotel will be included in an underground parking ramp.  

Downtown Manistee Sept 2020 2The project will bring millions of dollars to the region when complete.

Little River Holdings and CL Real Estate project that the economic impact from new hotel visitors will be $7.1 million annually in the Manistee Area. The project will create 145 direct jobs and 300 construction jobs for the building and reutilization of properties. One goal of this development is to create good paying jobs with benefits and advancement opportunities that are accessible to local residents.  

The development is the first project that Little River Holdings has worked on with CL Real Estate Development.

“This unique partnership provides our community with the opportunity to build a better future with investments, jobs, infrastructure, and improvements to downtown,” Eugene Magnuson, chief executive officer of Little River Holdings said. 

The unique partnership invests millions of dollars in five parcels and has tremendous economic impact potential for the downtown area specifically and the overall Manistee community.

“We will be creating a destination and spaces that will encourage more visitors to turn onto River Street and invite residents to enjoy and utilize the redeveloped assets,” Magnuson added.

“Downtown Manistee and the surrounding area has great potential for community-based economic development,” Nathan Watson, President of CL Real Estate Development said. “CL focuses on high-quality development opportunities where our investments can make a lasting impact, and we are excited to work on this transformational and meaningful project.”  

The entrance to downtown includes a Manistee Welcome Center with additional office space that will incorporate the downtown’s historic facade and provide information on the community, including its history and recreational offerings. The planned office space will be set in a prime location for the community and have a private entrance and parking off of River Street.  

An event center will feature the historic and unique large bow truss ceiling and historic elements from the Cadillac Plumbing Building and provide 8,600-square-feet of space that can hold up to 300 people for events. There is potential in this space to draw visitors for year-round events and banquets, such as weddings, conferences, classes, meetings, indoor Farmers’ Market and craft fairs.  There are opportunities for additional community partnerships with the developers in this expansive space. 

“This is an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime partnership between the Little River economic development arm and a principled, visionary investment group,” Stacie Bytwork, president of the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce said. “The vision for the project and the level of commitment to success by these partners will elevate the Manistee area and further our goals of economic development, a strong vibrant business community, and investment in our area and residents.”  

The Manistee Gateway will capture the attention of those driving by on US-31 and will increase visitation to the community and encourage longer stays by visitors.  The project will spur indirect economic development, as well, by providing opportunities for entrepreneurs and existing businesses. For the community, the development will increase the local tax base and revenues for the County Visitors Bureau and taxing bodies.   

While last Tuesday’s presentation was informational to the city council where no formal vote was required, members of the city’s governing body were excited and encouraged the developers to begin as soon as possible. The partnership will begin to submit plans and applications to Manistee authorities during the remainder of 2020, and work towards construction to begin in 2021. 

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Levi Rickert
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Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].