Renewing Port with Harbour Lights

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The M&I Bank Building and Businessmen's Club in 2011.  Photo by Mary Boyle

The M&I Bank Building and Businessmen’s Club in 2011. Photo by Mary Boyle

Port Washington’s former M&I Bank Building has had a rather tumultuous history – most of which occurred after it ceased to be used as a bank.

Back in 2007, it was purchased by Port Harbor Investment, a group of gentlemen who had high hopes for redevelopment that were shared by many in the city.  Then, a restoration went bad (along with the economy and the relationship between the city and the developers) and this unusual piece of architecture, along with it’s neighboring building known as the Businessmen’s Club, almost met the wrecking ball – until Port Washington resident and CEO of Renew Port Holdings, Gertjan van den Broek, stepped in and convinced the city to listen to his plan.

The two buildings sit just south of the building that houses the iconic Harry’s Restaurant, which van den Broek already owned and had plans to remodel.  All three of the buildings are key in Port Washington’s downtown, and van den Broek knew that if he could save the two historic buildings, they could be incorporated into his plan to renovate the corner building, and create a better use of space on the main street.

Conceptual Drawing of the Harbour Lights Redevelopment

Conceptual Drawing of the Harbour Lights Redevelopment

Luckily, the city listened, and not only were the buildings saved in 2011, the Businessmen’s Club building was purchased shortly thereafter by the Port Washington Historical Society, through the generosity of an anonymous donor, who asked that the space be used as a museum and gathering place.  Construction has already begun on that end, and it is expected that the “Port Exploreum” will be open in October.

Now, plans are moving forward for the renovation of the other two buildings, in a redevelopment called Harbour Lights, which will incorporate 10,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level, facing Lake Michigan on the east and Franklin Ave. (the main street) on the west, and thirteen condominiums on the upper floors, featuring fantastic views of the historic main street and, of course, the lake.

Creating residential space in his project was essential, says van den Broek, because a downtown needs residents in order to support businesses.  “Retail follows residential.  Tour buses and visitors come and go, but residents stay.”


View of the east side of the building, facing the lake.

View of the east side of the building, facing the lake.

It is van den Broek’s hope that the redevelopment will help to complete the revitalization of Port’s downtown that he has been working towards for so many years.  The Harbour Lights team brings a wealth of industry expertise to the project. Milwaukee-based Engberg Anderson specializes in mixed-use developments having worked on similar projects throughout the area. Bastien is a seasoned professional with more than 20 years of real estate experience with the Mequon office of First Weber.  Timothy J. Kitchen & Bath, Inc. is an award-winning design firm, and the Beverly Lewis Group has developed numerous successful consumer-oriented websites and marketing campaigns.

“Given the lakeside location and easy access to dining, shopping and year-round outdoor activities, Harbour Lights is a distinctive residential opportunity in Port Washington,” said Bastien. “Initial interest has been tremendous.”

Bastien is currently handling pre-construction sales and will open a Harbour Lights sales office on the Port Washington marina in April.  

“We are pleased with the project team we’ve assembled and excited to work with the City of Port Washington to help redevelop downtown in ways that will build value for the community as a whole,” said van den Broek.

As for the fate of Harry’s Restaurant, the future is still unknown.  Although van den Broek owns the building that Harry’s Restaurant is in, and would like Harry’s to stay, he does not own the business itself.  “That decision is in the owner’s hands,” van den Broek explained.

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Mary Boyle is a lifelong resident of Oz, and currently resides in Port Washington with her husband and her two children, collectively known as "the bubbies."

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