By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON HARBOR — Cornerstone Alliance and Mosaic Christian Community Development Association are planning a big move this year.
The organizations announced their plan Wednesday to move into two locations and redevelop both downtown Benton Harbor properties. Cornerstone Alliance is expected to move to 80 W. Main St. and Mosaic’s base of operations will find a home at 38 W. Wall St.
The building at 38 W. Wall St. has been the home to Cornerstone Alliance and Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce for about 20 years.
The economic development organization and job training nonprofit are expected to invest more than $1 million combined at the two downtown Benton Harbor properties. Rob Cleveland, president of Cornerstone Alliance, said that dollar amount stems from the renovation at both locations and the sale of Cornerstone’s building to Mosaic.
The move for Mosaic is not a far one from its original base of operations at 510 W. Main. The building Mosaic is renting was bought by Whirlpool Corp. a few years ago to make way for more parking for the appliance maker’s recently completed Riverview Campus.
Whirlpool officials gave Mosaic until the end of July 2017 to move out.
Brian Bennett, Mosaic’s president and founder, said the resale store, the Jobs for Life Program and Mosaic’s base of operations will move to the two-story building along Wall Street. The lower level of the building will be used for Mosaic Resale and the upper level will be for Mosaic officials and the Jobs for Life Program.
Bennett said they hope to keep its current location open until July when they have to move. The new location will open by Aug. 1, he said.
“It really has been a whirlwind over the last six weeks,” Bennett said. “I don’t think that any of us anticipated or saw this coming. Once we have keys and can open it, it will feel more real. I really appreciate the effort of all parties involved. I liked how responsive the city and Cornerstone have been because at the end of the day, we’re all doing something on behalf of downtown Benton Harbor.”
How did this happen?
Greg Vaughn, chief operating officer and vice president of Business Development at Cornerstone, said the proposal to move came about six weeks ago.
With Mosaic still in search of a home, Cornerstone Alliance set to work on finding a plausible location. Vaughn said they initially showed Mosaic officials the property on 80 W. Main St. – where Cornerstone ended up agreeing to move to.
When Bennett explained they would need a larger space for what they planned to do, another idea surfaced.
Cornerstone’s main nucleus had been discussing renovating the Wall Street property about six to eight months ago. The problem for Cornerstone was the building was too large and employees were spread out on the first and second floors. With both organizations facing space problems, Vaughn said they agreed to move and offered the larger building on Wall Street to Mosaic.
Bennett and others from the Mosaic organization liked the idea immediately.
The property that Cornerstone Alliance is moving into consists of two storefronts – last occupied by Tabor Hill’s former tasting room and Murfee’s Boutique.
Cleveland said office and conference facilities at the new anchor location along Main Street will still be available for economic development, Women’s Business Center and Small Business Services, the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce, SCORE and the Renaissance Development Fund.
Vaughn said that before everything is moved in, the facades in front and on the alley side of the existing building will be renovated, along with added parking in the back.
“This is an idea to act as a catalyst for redevelopment along Main Street,” Vaughn said Wednesday. “We thought it was best to reinsert ourselves on Main Street. We got a lot of encouragement from businesses in the arts district. Even the mayor is wanting to see some activity and feels strongly that our presence will drive that resurgence.”
While the move is still in its infancy, Vaughn said the building’s renovation will be completed in late summer or early fall.
Mosaic will move into its future location before Cornerstone’s renovation its completed. Because of this, Cornerstone will temporarily be housed across the street in an office-ready Wall Street property.
Mosaic on Main
Cafe Mosaic is already expected to take over the building at 325 Main St. in Benton Harbor, which most recently was inhabited by King Kong XPress. The cafe is unique because as part of the larger nonprofit company, its main mission is to provide jobs to people in need for training.
Mosaic Resale Store was proposed to be moved to Benton Harbor’s former Carl L. Brown Business Growth Center on Paw Paw Avenue.
However, the sale hit a snag when city commissioners voted unanimously to oppose the sale of the city-owned building. At the time, Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad said the building couldn’t be sold without the approval of the federal government because the U.S. Department of Commerce gave the city $800,000 to build the building.
Mosaic, which has been in existence since 2009, found an alternative with Cornerstone.
“When Cornerstone approached us, it fit our timeline for when we needed to move,” Bennett said. “It presents a lot of opportunities for growth.”
Muhammad was also pleased with Mosaic and Cornerstone’s plans.
“The residents of the city of Benton Harbor all have the opportunity to benefit from a move of this magnitude,” Muhammad said in a news release. “Cornerstone Alliance and Mosaic provide resources that allow our residents to have access to better jobs, to more skills that employers look for and to start a business of their own.”
The “Mosaic On the Move” capital campaign began in October as Mosaic pursued a permanent location for its operations in Benton Harbor.
The campaign’s goal remains at $850,000, as Bennett said the organization has raised $550,000 so far.
He said the campaign will continue into 2017, while having a physical address will help put them over the top.
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 16, 2017)