What it took to bring back the historic Russell Block in downtown Muskegon

The Russell Block in downtown Muskegon was built in 1890, but in 1949, the Daniels Office Supply installed a modern metal façade, hiding its historic character.

In 2011, the Port City Construction and Development set out to bring the vacant Russell Block back to life, starting with a façade restoration. But they needed funding to make the project a reality. 

The Community Foundation of Muskegon County agreed to make a short-term loan to the Russell Block developers. It was the first loan that the Community Foundation made to a for-profit organization. 

Impacting investing, or "mission investing," is not grantmaking — it's when a foundation or other mission-based organization makes an investment to further its philanthropic goals. (You can learn more about mission investing here.)

"Every foundation is becoming aware of how effective they can be to change a community, to make big changes," says Chris McGuigan, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Muskegon County. 

The restoration of the Russell Block definitely made a big change in downtown Muskegon. Now the building is home to a coffee shop, a craft brewery, and a pizza place. 

"That's part of the key to renewing downtown — we need people on the streets, people living downtown, we need activities," says Gary Post, Manager of Port City Construction and Development. 

But beyond bringing people downtown, the Russell Block also renewed a sense of community pride — a factor that is closely tied to community prosperity. 

"It beautified the street. It evoked our history. It made us all proud once again of the fantastic history that our downtown has. It created community pride, community beauty, and it created a home for really important activities," says McGuigan.

Learn more in this video, produced by Issue Media Group in partnership with the Council of Michigan Foundations, and visit www.michiganfoundations.org/impact-investing to learn more about CMF's support for impact investing across the state of Michigan.

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