Investor's big dreams, strong vision demand more for Port Huron's future

The beautiful Port Huron skyline is an amenity for anyone living along the water.

Developer Larry Jones may have retired from his "real job" in 2008, but lately he has been busier than ever, with purchasing and renovating several buildings in downtown Port Huron.

With the ribbon cutting ceremony in the history books for the recently opened Ballentine Lofts in Arden's Alley, Jones still has his eyes on the future of Port Huron.

"Port Huron is a growing community," says Jones. "You know, we started all this [revitalization] about eight, nine years ago, and the stars were lined up for Port Huron. It is a beautiful city and a beautiful area. There's no place to go but up."

Jones says that when then-Gov. Rick Snyder came to town in 2016 for a town hall, he likened Port Huron to a doughnut and that people were living around the city in a circle, and that it needed a stronger core.

"Port Huron has restaurants, and shops, an ice museum. And the waterfront. You've got the Black River, the St. Clair River, Lake Huron--wonderful features." -Larry Jones

"Now with malls not doing well because of things like Amazon, businesses are going back down into cheaper spaces for restaurants and bars and entertainment," he says.

Downtown living and walking in the area is now possible, thanks to the lively scene of places to eat, shop, dine and more.

"Port Huron has restaurants, and shops, an ice museum. And the waterfront," he stresses. "You've got the Black River, the St. Clair River, Lake Huron--wonderful features."

The next project for Jones includes renovating the spaces at 216, 218 and 220 Huron Avenue, also into condominiums.

"I want to do that the same way (as the Ballentine)," he says. "First floor for the walk-in community, restrooms, can walk in from two different streets, and can potentially have six little stores that are more affordable, so someone could have a cigar shop, a hat shop, and then 12 two-bedroom lofts.”

He will also incorporate a shared rooftop space for residents of the new project, just as he did at the Ballentine condominiums, complete with glass railings, pergola and, fire pit.

He says many people assume the rooftop space is open to the public, and he has to let down people by telling them it is just for the private residents.

"We were walking up there the other day and these people wanted to see the rooftops. I asked if they had keys and I had to tell them that it's not open to non-residents.”

He did take them up there in order to build excitement. "They were amazed at the view, and very excited about rooftops in general, like in bigger cities."

Jones says others will start to construct rooftop areas, as well.

"Other people are going to do it," he says. "I can see people having a little wine bar, maybe not the whole week, but on niceLoft living offers a unique view of Port Huron. Friday nights, with some music going."

Jones says he is excited as well for the future of the city. "You know, we have a high rise now, the theater, boutique hotel, the Harrington Hotel is opening soon, grocery store, all of those things are driving the city. Eight years ago, this city was dead for so long, you think 'could it happen?' It could happen and it IS happening."

He wants to keep investing in Port Huron in order to invest in the community. Jones can envision an exciting project in the Art Van building, as well as a current dream project, constructing a children's museum in the basement of the Ballentine building.

"It takes community involvement," Jones says in getting the project off the ground. "It's just as simple as the Port Huron Yacht Club donating a sailboat. Kids would play on that thing all day.”

He is especially optimistic about investors coming to the city.

"Investors in other communities will be looking at PH and say let's jump on board. Which will drive people in, which will drive jobs, which will drive companies to want to have businesses here, and the employee base is good.”

He points to himself as the perfect example. After leaving his farm north of Lansing after retirement, Jones ended up in Bay City, and then pulled his boat into the Port Huron Marina, and was amazed at the scene before him.

"'Wow, there's so much to offer,'" he recalls of his first thoughts of the city. "There is a beautiful beach, and I lived on my boat, and the beach on the 4th of July looked like Miami--everyone having fun. Taking the boat down the river, they have to raise the bridges for you--it's just a beautiful community.”

Other predictions for the city include seeing more older buildings torn down or revitalized, and prices being affordable for many different people.

"Prices--they will go up, but the price of living is lower, and the cost of buying buildings to purchase is lower. Young folks can buy a house very reasonably; build it up, for the equity, and be better off in life. There are many development opportunities.”

Jones takes some credit, but also points to others in the community who are doing their part to make the city successful and shine again.

"Every day you have to make yourself proud," he says. "And that rubs off onto other people. I've made myself proud, I don't need a pat on the back. If we make ourselves proud, then that spreads out to other people. Lynn Sikora, those people that smile, that keep moving Port Huron business forward, the Chamber of Commerce, the EDA, the DDA, everyone is saying good things about each other. Business owners are saying ‘check out this place, or if you like BBQ, try this, or Mexican, try that.' Everyone is bragging about their neighbors and that is what makes a community grow."

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