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ST. JOSEPH, Mich., (January 30, 2023) – Significant upgrades to Court Place Plaza and an optional facelift program for downtown St. Joseph business facades are key elements in economic development placemaking initiatives in a partnership among the City of St. Joseph, the St. Joseph Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and Cornerstone Alliance.

The initial concepts discussed for Court Place Plaza's upgrades call for public seating, overhead lighting, bike racks, and public art, with the goal of an active, programmed space. Upgrades are backed by a partnership budget of $75,000. As one of Cornerstone's multiple city-wide initiatives to create more attractive downtown public spaces, this project is targeted to participate in the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Public Spaces Community Places crowdfunding program, opening an avenue to raise an added $50,000 and create a potential total budget of more than $125,000.

“During development of our 2020 Downtown Vision Master Plan, the community said that it was important to connect our east of Main Street businesses, institutions, and neighbors to the rest of downtown," said St. Joseph Mayor, Laura Goos. "This project turns an underutilized plaza into a neighborhood amenity for programs, activities and events. It will be an enjoyable place for residents and visitors to gather."

If you are interested in contributing space design and programming ideas for the Plaza, sign up here to be notified of opportunities to share your ideas. This project comes on the heels of the recently completed crowdfunding campaign supporting the creation of a pocket park in Watervliet and a concept for an alley activation in Benton Harbor, as part of Cornerstone Alliance’s increased focus on placemaking in Berrien County.

The facade improvement program for downtown businesses, also being launched by the City of St. Joseph, DDA and Cornerstone Alliance, aims to preserve downtown St. Joseph's unique character and sense of place, prepare vacant spaces to make them more attractive to prospective tenants, fund improvements to existing business and drive additional sales.

“Employers and employees increasingly make location decisions based on community amenities. People want to live in great places, and savvy businesses are choosing to locate and expand in places that they can attract talent to," said Andrew Haan, LPM, Vice President of Business Development, Cornerstone Alliance. "Public spaces where people can come together with friends and neighbors are a critical component of an attractive business location.”

Businesses and property owners within the DDA Boundary (shown below) will be eligible to receive up to $10,000 in one-to-one matching dollars as a reimbursement for approved upgrades to the facades of their buildings.

“We’re committed to making the downtown a more attractive, welcoming, enjoyable environment for our residents and patrons," said St. Joseph City Manager, John Hodgson. "We appreciate Cornerstone Alliance’s expertise, leadership, and partnership in developing this proposal, and we will actively encourage and support businesses as they consider, plan and implement improvements that benefit their businesses, their buildings and our community.”

Guidelines and application materials for the facade improvement program will be available February 15. Applications can be submitted for approval beginning March 15.

Cornerstone Alliance and the City of St. Joseph will conduct workshops to help property owners fully access the facade program. For an application and updates on workshop times and locations, sign up here.