Facade removed from ‘The Watershed’ building in downtown Sturgis

A crew removes the facade of the former Sportsarama storefront at 114 W. Chicago Rd. in downtown Sturgis on Wednesday, January 25. The facade's removal will make way for a mixed-use development called “The Watershed." (Photo provided)

Project could be completed as early as Spring 2024

Work continued Wednesday at 114 W. Chicago Rd. as the former Sportsarama storefront facade was brought down to make way for a mixed-use development called “The Watershed” (no relation) in the heart of downtown Sturgis. Once built, the five-story building will include housing units and an upscale farm-to-table steakhouse with an eye toward enhancing the downtown retail mix, helping ease the current local housing crisis, and making future development more economically viable. 

An unprecedented local housing shortage in Sturgis has raised prices for homes and rent making it difficult for first-time home buyers to navigate the market successfully. John Carmichael, president of Root and Branch Real Estate LLC, hopes to fill this housing gap by developing a complex with 23 units, including studio, one bedroom, or two bedroom apartments. Tenant features will include communal space for residents, private balconies, and in-unit washer and dryers with rent prices beginning at $695. With the lack of housing also driving worker shortages, Carmichael hopes adding housing density to the downtown area will improve local employers’ ability to hire and retain staff.

The ground level of the project is roughly 5,000 square feet and will encompass a locally-owned and operated steakhouse. Run by experienced restaurant operators, it will specialize in locally grown ingredients, such as Wagyu beef. The restaurant operator has additionally committed to launching a disability employment program supported by GT Independence, which will create paid internships at the restaurant for people with disabilities. Not only will the “destination steakhouse” potentially bring extra foot traffic to the downtown area, it is projected to create at least 25 new, long-term positions when combined with staffing for the new apartment complex. 

The $12.5M project has not come without hurdles, however, with one coming in the form of a zoning issue concerning the height of the planned development. Carmichael told Watershed Voice that issue has since been resolved with assistance from the Sturgis Planning Board. “The Planning Board was incredibly professional in the way that they approached the project, and I thought it was a positive experience, not just for me, but for the community to go through that. It was great.” 

Concerns have also been raised about the ways in which parking will be impacted by the new development. Carmichael said Root and Branch Real Estate is working closely with the City of Sturgis to evaluate and plan for parking needs associated with the growth of downtown Sturgis. With a current number of 436 free, public parking lot spaces available within two blocks, including a shared lot located at the rear of the building, GT Independence additionally plans to convert up to 66 of the company’s parking lot spaces into public parking. This will ensure residents and employees of the development have ample overflow parking in the downtown corridor. Carmichael said it will be of the utmost importance for local business owners and the city to work together throughout the coming transition.

The project’s financing has come from a variety of sources, including a $4.1 million investment awarded to Root and Branch Real Estate by the Michigan Strategic Fund. Carmichael tells Watershed Voice, “There is public funding for this project coming from different levels, including the state of Michigan, local grants, and even a federal program called New Market Tax Credits. Without this support this project would not be possible.”

With construction underway for The Watershed, Carmichael estimates the project could be completed as early as Spring 2024. For current news on the construction process, including video updates, follow Root and Branch Real Estate LLC on Facebook, or at www.rootandbranchrealestate.com.

Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice.

DISCLAIMER: John Carmichael is a member of Watershed Voice’s Community News Coalition, and has donated money to Main Street Media Group in an effort to support our work. We collaborate with like-minded stakeholders who have shared values and missions. Because of our intersecting interests, we may cover our underwriters’ work journalistically. However, WSV observes strict boundaries regarding the direction, review, and approval of content that is published. 

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