Dowagiac pursues housing development project

Published 6:12 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2023

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DOWAGIAC — A planned development project would bring 40 apartment units to downtown Dowagiac.

The Dowagiac City Council unanimously approved the acceptance of a Letter of Intent with Rivers Edge Apartments, LLC during its Monday meeting at City Hall. The letter of intent will allow for the review of zoning, financing and grant opportunities and for further negotiations with the city for a market rate multi-family development on a four-acre site located on the 500 block of South Front Street.

Under the proposed agreement, REA will purchase the site from the city at a cost of $320,000 to construct five eight-unit apartment buildings – a total of 40 units – to provide attainable housing and continue to attract workforce talent to the city of Dowagiac. 

“I’m pretty excited about this,” said City Manager Kevin Anderson. “It has moved along at a highly accelerated pace. But I think this is a very solid development group and if we’re able to put this together, it would be a wonderful thing for the community. We would be able to clean up some blighted areas, reclaim some waterfront for public park space and really create another resident connection into the downtown.”

The letter of intent requires the city to provide REA with a reasonable due diligence period of 120 days with exclusivity being granted for the same. During this time, REA will begin grant writing process, secure private financing if required, review all environmental records, construct, and put out to bid prints, address any zoning and potential infrastructure issues and complete full feasibility subject to construct 40 units of housing. As long as progress is being made to finalize transaction, due diligence may be extended. 

Over the course of the due diligence period, the city will also work to draft a development agreement and will continue to negotiate the final terms of the agreement, including the development timeline. Anderson said REA’s development ideas are consistent with the planning efforts currently underway with Wightman for the development and public space in that area. Staff met with Wightman last week to review and comment on the preliminary plans. 

“The good news is there’s strong interest and I think it’s partially because of the marketplace and it’s also because there are a number of state grants that this project would rank pretty high for,” Anderson said. “We’ll see what we can do to work with them to get those in place.”

The development project comes as the city continues to find ways to address blight, provide affordable housing and attract workforce talent to the community. Anderson said the city is in the process of applying for grants that will further that effort.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dowagiac Mayor Don Lyons. “It will be transformative.”