Anniversaries are the perfect occasion for celebration, reflection and looking ahead. As the Jack Nicklaus Signature course at Harbor Shores Resort, every-other-year host of the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, and its surrounding 550-acre community marks its first 10 years, the transformative impact the development has had on the Lake Michigan shoreline communities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Michigan is humbling to consider. Harbor Shores stands as a remarkable testament to a vision made possible by $900 million in strategic investments, a collective set of projects with collaborating community leaders and organizations, led by the Whirlpool Foundation and its benefactor, global home appliance leader Whirlpool Corporation.
This year’s KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship was cancelled in response to the “Stay at Home” mandate from the state of Michigan, but that hasn’t dampened the charitable spirit of the locals who fully appreciate the magnitude of this community’s transformation. Whirlpool Corp. and the community have come together and acknowledged their full support of doing whatever it takes to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. This has included donating much needed medical supplies to local hospitals and its employees being active in helping provide local meals and support for the youth in the region.
Instead of asking for refunds on the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship uniforms provided by the PGA of America, many of the more than 1,500 community volunteers have donated those funds to help frontline workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic through the Spectrum Lakeland Foundation. That community spirit of doing the right thing collaboratively has been the silent force behind the Harbor Shores development and many other interdependent projects in the community for years, and legions of volunteers have already signed up for the most significant major in senior golf when it returns to Harbor Shores in 2022. When Whirlpool Corp. and community leaders made the critical decision to develop Harbor Shores Resort and transform its hometown in Southwest Michigan, it was unknown how a development of this magnitude with golf as its anchor could help turn a city around. Now a full decade later, Harbor Shores has far exceeded its original masterplan. That vision, to transform a once-thriving manufacturing hub into a beautiful and robust residential and recreational development that would serve and promote the local community, has yielded immense economic impact to the cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, as well as the surrounding villages and townships.
Today, this development has become part of the fabric of the community. This includes Harbor Shores Resort dedicating itself to ensuring that more than 40 percent of its employees (golf course and hotel) are from the distressed census tracts in and around Benton Harbor. In all, more than 3,200 new jobs have been created by the community partners, including the Cornerstone Alliance and Berrien County economic development organizations in the area, since 2010. The economic impact from area tourism revenue has increased each of the last five -years, and Harbor Shores is committed to maintaining the public parks and beaches that were opened as part of the community development. Jean Klock Park, which failed to generate any revenues prior to the renovations, today has the Harbor Shores golf course maintenance staff maintaining the entire park. The park now generates over $150,000 annually for the city of Benton Harbor treasury from rentals and visitors.
The First Tee of Benton Harbor, headquartered at Harbor Shores with offices and programming located directly on the golf course, is the only fully subsidized program of its kind in the Midwest and reaches more than 1,000 children annually.
The Nicklaus course at Harbor Shores sits on a site where 6,000 manufacturing jobs were lost over an 18-month period in the 1980s. Most of these buildings sat empty for years, leaving roughly three million square feet of industrial materials and contaminated soil—enough to fill a football field 80 feet tall. In 2008, that property had a state equalized value of $0. By 2017, the same land had a taxable value of nearly $37 million.
“Before construction of Harbor Shores began, the area was in need of a monumental project that could have the scale to bring about real change, especially in Benton Harbor,” said Jeff Noel, Vice President of Communication & Public Affairs for Whirlpool Corp. “While the golf course may generate most of the publicity, this community is consistently working on projects to ensure a better quality of life for everyone. Using golf to bring people together to give back remains an ongoing mission and is the proud center of the Harbor Shores story.”
The opening of the golf course at Harbor Shores in July 2010 signaled a turning point in Benton Harbor’s history. The 6,852-yard, par-71 Jack Nicklaus Signature design is a key component of the $500 million core Harbor Shores development on the shores of Lake Michigan and the Paw Paw River. The direct spike in jobs, redevelopment, new homebuyers, tax base, vacationers and civic pride from the sprawling resort and residential development is almost incomprehensible when one considers what stood on these shores just over a decade ago.
From lot after lot of abandoned manufacturing plants and industrial waste sites, to a focal point in a community that has been sustainably and measurably revitalized, Harbor Shores and the surrounding area is one decade-long chapter into a remarkable journey.
“As fun and engaging as the golf course experience is at Harbor Shores, it’s impossible to forget the purpose and history of this project and this community,” said Joshua Doxtator, PGA general manager, Harbor Shores Jack Nicklaus Signature Course. “The signage on each hole gives a visual reminder of what stood here before there was such beauty. To be able to provide jobs and beautiful amenities for this community keeps our team humbled, grounded and inspired to do whatever it takes to help this community thrive.”
When Doxtator joined the Harbor Shores team in 2019, he saw the potential to bring a higher, more-manicured maintenance standard to the property while elevating the service and food and beverage experiences. The result has been well-received as on-course food and beverage, as well as merchandise sales, are trending upward along with overall per-golfer revenues. “We’re attracting a discerning clientele from all over the Midwest,” Doxtator said. “I think it’s clear this property’s greatest days lie ahead.”
The course, which Jack Nicklaus has tabbed as one of his 18 favorite designs of all time, runs across four remarkably diverse terrains including a photogenic setting along the coastal dunes of Lake Michigan. This is also the 10th anniversary of one of the greatest and most fun putts ever made by Nicklaus.
Another major component to the development, complementing the golf experience, is The Inn at Harbor Shores. A 92-room luxury hotel on the St. Joseph River, The Inn also features 14 luxury suites, two top-floor condominiums and a rooftop meeting space. A selection of dining options (including Plank’s Tavern on the Water, Torch & Tapas and Rise & Vine), a full-service spa, indoor and outdoor pools, fitness center, state-of-the-art meeting rooms and wedding venues for up to 300 guests. Next to the Inn, guests and locals may enjoy a 100-slip deep-water marina that can accommodate boats up to 90 feet long.
Real estate is flourishing within Harbor Shores. With five residential communities, breathtaking beaches, towering dunes and panoramic views of Lake Michigan, Harbor Shores stands apart among residential communities and showcases an attractive array of floor plans and lifestyle-driven amenities.
Harbor Shores has become one of the region’s best places to live, work and play. The resort brings jobs, pride and a discerning class of travelers to its thriving community. Harbor Shores Resort sits just 90 minutes east of Chicago, three hours west of Detroit and three hours north of Indianapolis, making it a convenient weekend getaway destination and an ideal location for team building events, weddings and more.