(New Buffalo, MI) - What’s been referred for a long time as “the big hole in the ground” in downtown New Buffalo could be on the verge of being put back to use.
Demolition has been happening on the uncompleted parking garage that was once part of a retail/condominium development planned on Whittaker Street
New Buffalo Mayor John Humphrey said the work occurring on the property, long viewed as a detriment to downtown, is a positive.
“It’s progress, right. Something is happening,” he said.
Originally, plans for the site approved in 2006 called for retail and condominiums inside multi-story buildings to be constructed above an underground parking garage with room for more than 100 vehicles. The project stopped when the developer ran out of money to finish the project during a major nationwide economic downturn in 2008. The roughly 1.5-acre site has been abandoned ever since, until work began in late January on removing the unpaved concrete parking structure.
Humphrey said the demolition seems to be about halfway finished already.
“If it took them a week and a half to get there, I guess another week and a half to get it wrapped up,” he said.
The site, presently owned by Victor Ciardelli, President and CEO of Guaranteed Rate, a retail mortgage company he founded in Chicago, is up for sale, listed for about $6 million.
New Buffalo City Manager Darwin Watson said he and other city officials met with representatives of Ciardelli last year and believe the purpose of the demolition is to make the property more attractive on the market.
He said a permit for the demolition was issued by the city late in 2023.
Watson said a $6 million purchase would likely mean a significant development having to go up on the site, eventually, to generate enough funds for the buyer to see a return on the investment. He would like to see something similar to what was planned previously on the land, once home to a few small shops.
Humphrey’s vision for the site is smaller shops, possibly with apartments and green space. He also likes the idea of a restaurant and bar going there to add to the ones that have gone up recently in the downtown.
Watson also said he doesn’t feel downtown has been hurt from what’s also been referred to as “an eyesore.”
“There’s still an enormous amount of tourists that come and people that come to visit the city even when that’s there,” he said.