Yearslong project aims to make old Vicksburg mill into Midwest destination

Kalamazoo County

VICKSBURG, Mich. (WOOD) — Progress is moving forward to redevelop the former paper mill in the village of Vicksburg. 

The project is looking to turn the mill into a destination that would bring people from throughout the Midwest to Southwest Michigan.

The 420,000-square-foot mill sits on roughly 160 acres in the small town south of Kalamazoo. Jackie Koney, the chief operating officer of site owner Paper City Development, said all that space will provide an experience like nowhere else.   

“There’s going to be at least a major brewery, likely a distillery; multiple event spaces of different sizes and types; a hotel,” Koney listed.

Entrepreneur and Vicksburg native Chris Moore is investing $85 million in the project. His company has been approved for nearly $30 million in tax incentives from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Kalamazoo County spread out over 30 years. 

News 8 toured the building more than a year ago just before the pandemic was declared. At the time, many walls were coated in layers of lead paint. Now, an abatement project has removed the paint giving the mill a fresh look. 

The more than two-year project to repair and restore the 3.2 million bricks that make up the mill is also nearly finished. Significant progress is being made on supporting the structure and opening up original window openings.  

The Mill at Vicksburg redevelopment project. (May 2021)

The paper mill opened in 1903 and has been empty since it closed in 2001. 

“My first job was to save the mill from demolition,” Moore said. “I like the idea of a challenge to figure out how to make this mill and the surroundings economically viable.”  

Moore’s father and grandfather both spent their careers working at the mill. Moore himself worked there over the summers during the 1980s. When it closed, he saw the economic impact.  

Moore says the location of the mill is a short driving distance from millions of potential customers. 

“There used to be a saying when we were in high school here in Vicksburg: Vicksburg the center of the universe, and it really is. You take a look at a radius of 50 miles or 100 miles and you catch Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis,” Moore said.  

The redevelopment project is working to remove contaminants from the site. Paper City LLC has plans to use some of the outdoor space for concerts and other events.  

The Mill at Vicksburg redevelopment project. (May 2021)

Moore also owns the Old Stove Brewing Company in Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market and wants to bring that passion for craft beer to Vicksburg. 

Village manager Jim Mallery hopes it will be a catalyst to new life for Vicksburg.

“We watched it decay. We watched people come in and set fires,” Mallery said of the mill. “For the next 200 years, it’s going to be a place of destination and the plans that they have and what is going to unfold here into the future is just absolutely incredible.” 

Construction is now expected to be completed by the end of 2025 with the opening of the mill happening sometime in 2026. 

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