Something Big Is Coming

Bigger. Bolder. More beautiful thAn before.

Here’s some big news

The century-old, former Lee Paper Mill in Vicksburg is being restored. It’s a big place—really big. And it’s going to be a very big deal.

It began with a big idea: restore, repurpose and relaunch this massive historic space. Bring back its beauty, vitality and significance. Do bold, exciting things inside and around it. Have a big impact on a small village and across a broad nation. Begin something that will be around for centuries to come.

Do all of this for all the right reasons.

The Real Deal

This is not just another over-reaching vision or passionate dream. It’s not an over-leveraged, undercapitalized or half-baked entrepreneurial scheme. The Mill at Vicksburg is the real deal: a genuine, viable, enterprise-level commercial development which is fitting, because for a century the paper mill was the economic and cultural spine of its community. Today the area is ready and waiting for this new commercial engine to be unleashed and become a regional powerhouse and a national destination. The Mill project was conceived of, and is being driven by, a national-caliber entrepreneur who has demonstrated success in multiple ventures across several industries. He’s assembled a top-tier team of planners and managers, and committed his own resources so that it will launch debt-free. It’s strongly supported by the Village of Vicksburg, Kalamazoo County, the State of Michigan and the National Park Service.

Premium, best-in-class product

The business model is more than viable; it’s profitable, sustainable and catalytic. It will attract and support further economic development in a dynamically growing regional economy. It will be a hub for dozens of partner businesses, create hundreds of jobs on-site and thousands locally and attract hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the nation. It will be a premium venue, a best-in-class product and an innovative leader spanning multiple industries.

Can the restoration of an old mill in a village with only a few thousand residents really become a game-changing commercial development that remakes the economic and cultural landscape of Southwest Michigan?

Yes, it can. It will.
It has already begun.

Business Model & Goals

The Mill at Vicksburg is a massive space with an expansive concept, but it has a sharp business model with overlapping commercial ventures and a very specific feature set for its products and services.

At the core is a unique property that is being repurposed to create an exceptional venue with extraordinary capabilities. Yes, there are other restored industrial spaces and production facilities for brewing and distilling with taprooms, vintage bars and artisan dining clusters. Yes, there are other event centers for conventions and conferences with nearby boutique hotels and museums. Yes, there are other restored brownfield sites, reclaimed river walks, outdoor community spaces and educational laboratories, as well as artist residency programs and tourism destinations within walking distance from historic villages with national historic designations. And of course there are other open spaces for performances and recording studios.

But there is nowhere that offers all of that in one place. Until now.

EVENTS: PREMIUM EXHIBITION & EVENTS CENTER

As an enterprise-class commercial venture, The Mill at Vicksburg’s business model is comprised of a series of interlocking and mutually supporting sub-models that serve proven and expanding market demand in the region. The first of these is the event and exhibit industry.

BEER: REGION’S PREMIUM BEER DESTINATION

Brewing and distilling—part of what makes Southwest Michigan world-famous—is the second of The Mill at Vicksburg′s interlocking and mutually supporting sub-business models that serve proven and expanding market demand.

MUSIC: Michigan’s Premium Destination

Music and entertainment is The Mill at Vicksburg’s third interlocking, mutually supporting sub-model that will serve proven and expanding market demand in the Great Lakes region.

TOURISM: REGIONAL

Come Mill About Southwest Michigan

Southwest Michigan has so much to offer that everyone can find something to enjoy.

Dunes, harbors and quaint beach towns. Artist colonies and U-Pick family farms with blueberries, peaches and apples. Wineries and one of America’s most-celebrated craft beer regions dotted with breweries, small and large. Inland lakes and rivers full of fish and every conceivable watercraft. On- and off-road cycling. Lots of fantastic golf courses connected by winding country roads with cider mills and spectacular fall foliage. Outdoor concerts and parades. Eclectic shopping, dining and foodie enclaves. Cross-country skiing during winter and antique fairs in summer. Nationally known festivals like Tulip Time, Coast Guard Festival and ArtPrize. The Mill is located within a short drive to all of this, and is only an hour from Grand Rapids, and two hours from Downtown Chicago and the Detroit–Ann Arbor metro area.

RESTORATION: BROWNFIELD

From Blight to Beauty

For a century, The Mill turned cloth rags into the finest writing paper in America. But that industrial usage impacted the land. Wastewater polluted the stream and when The Mill closed, the property was declared a brownfield site. In partnership with the State of Michigan and Kalamazoo County, this brownfield is being transformed into a clean and sustainable environment for visitors and the community.

Restoration: Building

RESCUED & REPURPOSED

Majestic open spaces defined by bricks and wooden beams with suspension trusses. Light splashing through tall windows onto wooden floors trod upon by a century of workers. Towering five-story walls abutting and overlooking meadows running out into woods and wetlands.

The Mill is unique; it is special; it has distinct character and identity. It echoes of a time in American architecture when beauty and brawn, form and function were in harmony; when factories were built with elegant craftsmanship because hard work was valued, and the places where people worked hard deserved to be beautiful.

This magnificent, artisan brick structure is being rescued from decay and repurposed with its many unique features and unusual spaces: large concrete tanks, beater tanks penetrating several stories of the building, large expanses where paper machines rose two stories high, large sections that were storage areas with low ceilings. There is even an area that was burned, which will become a beer garden terrace with the preserved beater tanks providing architectural detail.

History Of The Mill

By the early 1900s, Kalamazoo, Michigan had earned itself the name “Paper City.” At the turn of the 20th century, the area had 25 paper mills churning out over 900 tons of paper per day, 6 days a week, producing more book paper than any other region in the world. One of the most admired of these mills was built in 1903 by Lee Paper Company, just outside of Kalamazoo in Vicksburg.

History of Vicksburg Village

Dense oak forest, a vast meadow and a creek with an eight-foot waterfall determined the placement of Vicksburg and defined its future.

In 1828, Bazel Harrison traveled north from Ohio and became the first white settler in Prairie Ronde, a 14,000-acre opening in the sea of oaks that covered Michigan at the time. A few of Harrison’s early neighbors in the Schoolcraft area included future well-known Vicksburg names John Vickers and Joel Clark.

Early American author James Fenimore Cooper, whose most-famous work, The Last of the Mohicans, captured the changes taking place in what was then known as the Western Territories, set his final novel The Oak Openings in a small prairie near Vicksburg. Cooper lived in Schoolcraft in 1848 and based one of the novel’s characters on Harrison. The Harrisons were a prominent American family that eventually produced Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president of the United States.

Judge Bazel Harrison and his son William plowed the first furrow to plant the first farm in Kalamazoo County.

Connection To The Village & Community

The Mill and the Village of Vicksburg have always had a symbiotic relationship; geographically, economically and culturally. Paper City Development is working closely with the Village to restore and repurpose key structures downtown, contributing to a thriving community for local residents, businesses and schools.

The Mill inspires creativity and is already serving its community in unique ways. The Prairie Ronde Artist Residency Program is providing studio space for painters and sculptors and bringing local residents in for showings.

Over the decades, beautiful examples of early 20th-century architecture in Downtown Vicksburg fell into disrepair, or were remodeled without preserving their historic character. Paper City Development is working to lovingly restore and repurpose these historic “Main Street” buildings to serve the local community and visitors to The Mill. A vibrant Downtown Vicksburg—only a short walk away—will complement the attractions on The Mill campus and help build a dynamic, local economy.

Local schools are using the campus as an educational laboratory, including a pollinator farm. The Mill will always maintain a close relationship with schools, providing innovative and interesting ways for students to learn and gain practical experience.

Timeline To Completion

Sustainable Philanthropy

CHRIS MOORE

In 2014, Seattle entrepreneur Chris Moore realized that if The Mill at Vicksburg was going to be saved, he’d have to step up and do something. He then began the process of buying The Mill, launching a company and hiring a team to bring it back to life. Five years later, his philanthropic endeavor is sustaining this historic building, bringing back its economic and cultural viability and restoring the heart of his hometown community.

Chris knows every square inch of The Mill. His family has lived in the community for nearly 150 years, with three generations working in The Mill. Chris got his first job there—alongside his father and grandfather where they spent the entirety of their careers. Even though his career has taken him to other places, Chris’ heart continues to hold a special place for Vicksburg and The Mill.

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