Berrien County awarded $2.6 million grant for downtown Niles, Benton Harbor

Published 3:51 pm Thursday, September 8, 2022

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NILES — Downtown improvements are coming to Niles, thanks to a grant recently awarded to Berrien County.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced Wednesday Berrien County will receive $2.6 million to make significant local improvements in Benton Harbor and Niles.

The RAP program is a MEDC program that will deploy up to $100 million in American Rescue Plan funding to address the COVID-19 impacts in Michigan communities. This funding is available through the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF). The MEDC received a total of 185 RAP applications requesting approximately $500 million in awards. 

Eligible applicants will rehabilitate vacant, underutilized, blighted and historic structures and the development of permanent place-based infrastructure associated with traditional downtowns, social-zones, outdoor dining and placed-based public spaces. The RAP program awards funding to eligible applicants based on one or more competitive application rounds. 

The RAP grant program requires a 50 percent match. According to City Administrator Ric Huff, the municipal projects will be matched using ARPA funds and the private projects will require the applicant to match using its funds.

“We’re excited by this announcement from the Michigan Strategic Fund,” said Dan Fette, Director of Berrien County Community Development. “With these funds, Berrien County, Cornerstone Alliance and the City of Niles will be able to invest approximately $5 million in renovating and redeveloping two principle downtown districts in our area. This was a team effort and we’re pleased that Berrien County was able to help coordinate this with our local and State partners.”

The Michigan Strategic Fund continues to fuel new economic activity across Michigan, strengthening communities and creating good jobs for residents. The 11-member board has statutory authority to direct state appropriations to support business development, community development, talent enhancement and state marketing activities, including the promotion of tourism, film industry, arts and cultural affairs.

“Thriving communities and talent attraction are vital to our overall economic development strategy; communities across Michigan responded with innovative proposals to create holistic, people-first economic development here in Michigan and we had to make very difficult choices,” said Quentin L. Messer, Jr., CEO of MEDC and President and Chair of the MSF Board. “We’re pleased to support our partners in Berrien County on their revitalization efforts, and we remain committed to ensuring that all Michiganders feel the impact of MEDC’s efforts to grow Michigan’s economy. We appreciate the support of the Governor and our partners in the legislature to use these federal funds to fund these critical programs and the work is just beginning.”