Big Plans at Bay Harbor
Published Wednesday, August 2, 2017 Updated on Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Big Plans at Bay Harbor

Bay Harbor Company

4000 Main street, Bay Harbor, Michigan  |


The Bay Harbor community has big plans for a 2018
Grand Opening summer, in many ways!

For more than 22 years, this stunning five-mile development along the Lake Michigan shoreline west of Petoskey has grown from a small cluster of exclusive lakeside homes into 30 different family-friendly neighborhoods, a world-class golf destination, an unparalleled yacht club experience, public marina and lake access, plus an evolving shopping and dining district known as the Village at Bay Harbor. With the opening of the Great Lakes Center for the Arts in the summer of 2018, the Bay Harbor community is gearing up for another big act!

“This is extraordinary,” said Denny Brya, General Manager of Bay Harbor under its developer, David V. Johnson. "We are on the cusp of another very exciting time in Bay Harbor’s history that shifts our downtown more toward social gathering, casual dining and entertainment. Visitors and year ‘round residents will find new and inviting experiences as we introduce a world-class arts and cultural hub in 2018, the Great Lakes Center for the Arts. There is so much momentum, it’s truly going to benefit the entire region as we unveil our plans over the next year."

History and a commitment to the Petoskey area

Bay Harbor got rolling in earnest in 1994, with the demolition of the old Penn-Dixie smokestacks that were blown up in a shoreline ceremony featuring then-Michigan Gov. John Engler, who helped detonate the explosives. Engler told the crowd gathered that Bay Harbor would be “the crown jewel of Michigan,” and “a place that will put this region on the national map, if not the world map.”

As construction and land preparation got under way in the mid- to late-1990s, the view across the landscape featured the groan-and-churn of construction equipment, clouds of dust and work crews hammering out houses. When the dust settled at each major construction site, what was revealed was breathtaking: Magnificent estates were rising along the beautifully rugged shoreline; lavish landscaping details flourished amidst large, secluded lots; and expansive complexes that would become a yacht club, golf course and shopping district.

“Bay Harbor’s 30 different neighborhoods are unique because they contain a variation of product types to meet different lifestyles in both size and placement along 5 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline.  They offer the ability for 2,000 square foot and 10,000 square foot homes to blend in harmony with exterior architectural control and superior enforcement of landscape requirements and home placement,” said Mr. Johnson, the developer.

He noted the varied lifestyles that are afforded among Bay Harbor’s living communities as adding to Bay Harbor’s allure over 20+ years. “The Peninsula and The Shores feature stunning Hamptons-style homes where you can park a 120-foot yacht on Bay Harbor Lake and have Lake Michigan on the other side with the most magnificent sunsets in the world,” Johnson said. “The harbor is adorned with uniquely positioned boathouses where you can park your 80-foot boat in your living room. All of these different home choices are what add dimension and strength to the Bay Harbor real estate market, its timelessness for the long-term future and its unique position in the resort real estate marketplace.”

Johnson also added that architectural excellence is what has differentiated Bay Harbor more than 20 years after its founding.  

“While the unique original vision of Michigan historic turn-of-the-century architecture in harmony with nature is fantastic, what is amazing is the outstanding team of professionals at Bay Harbor Company that have administered and held accountability to the founding principles of architectural excellence as building has continued and renovations have taken place,” Johnson said.

The Bay Harbor Co. has indeed beautified the landscape, and has also been dedicated to giving back. The Bay Harbor Foundation, funded by its residents and philanthropists, has directed nearly $2 million to over 102 area nonprofits organizations of all types, benefitting youth, health & human services, arts, and environmental preservation efforts. The Foundation also provides college scholarships annually for employees, children or grandchildren of Bay Harbor employees.

The Foundation’s annual Vintage Car & Boat Festival each June (June 22-24, 2017) is a major fundraiser for the organization and is attended by thousands who get a glimpse into one-of-kind classic vintage automobiles and boats. The Baynanza Dinner and Auction, also that same weekend in June, is another way for the Foundation to raise funds “to continue to pursue our mission and care for our neighbors and our community,” said Candace Fitzsimons, the Foundation’s Executive Director.

Local residents and visitors have further benefitted from almost a mile of public parks at each end of the community, East and West Parks.

Bay Harbor has also had a considerable impact on providing local jobs; thousands of trades and service workers over the past 20 years have supported themselves and their families based on the steady success of Bay Harbor. Additionally, Bay Harbor’s residents and businesses contribute hundreds of millions in taxes to Michigan’s economy each year, he added.

“Bay Harbor’s strength is that it has weathered economic cycles and is truly a generational family community for the ages,” Johnson said. “As Chairman of Bay Harbor Company, it has consistently been my and our company’s goal to maximize real estate values.” 


The entire Bay Harbor community plans for a 2018 Grand Opening summer

The Grand Opening of the Great Lakes Center for the Arts in July of 2018 is a big catalyst behind the efforts to shift The Village into more of an “eatertainment” district that includes something for everyone (see related story on the Great Lakes Center for the Arts).  The Center is the anchor to the Village, creating prime opportunity for walkable street cafes, tap rooms and other new dining and gathering spaces. Browse around shopping will be offered in pop-up shops carrying unique, upscale merchandise.

“Bay Harbor Village contains similar aspects to Aspen Village with shopping and dining amidst lakes instead of mountains,” said Johnson.

The next phase of Bay Harbor is happening now. Leading the reinvention efforts are several groups that have come together with plenty of enthusiasm and passion for seeing it come to fruition; most of these members are volunteers committed to ensuring the success of Bay Harbor for generations to come. The Bay Harbor Marketing Alliance is the umbrella entity coordinating the efforts that include a new web site uniting Bay Harbor’s numerous entities and real estate,

The community is following the nationally proven Main Street Program for re-envisioning downtowns. Heidi Geiger, a Bay Harbor resident, has been leading the Main Street initiative as facilitator at regular meetings that have brought together a large group of residents, business leaders and community stakeholders to map out the future vision for the Village at Bay Harbor.

“The Main Street Approach was such a great way for us to organize and prioritize the great assets and ideas for the re-envisioning of Bay Harbor’s Village,” Geiger said. “We know the community will join us to experience the new Village at Bay Harbor reveal in May 2018 – just a year away, and in time for the Great Lakes Center for the Arts’ premiere season.”

The Upper Village plans are new to the conversation. Near the Bay Harbor entrance, two sections of land are being prepped to attract service and retail, including the possibility of bike rentals at the key location along the famed Little Traverse Wheelway. Eleven new luxury lakeview home sites are also in development near the Bay Harbor entrance.

Added Brya: “It is an exciting time to be involved with Bay Harbor, but really, that has always been the case. Communities naturally evolve and change with the generations.  We are fortunate to have leadership within the company and community with deep and meaningful vision, and also passion for the success of Bay Harbor,” said Brya. “We are looking forward to sharing this next phase in the story of Bay Harbor with our residents and also importantly with the greater Northern Michigan community.”

Bay Harbor at 23:

30 different neighborhoods and more than 500 full-time and part-time residents (including a growing number of year-rounders)

Village shopping and dining district

Yacht Club

Golf Club

Marina and deep harbor

Two overnight accommodations, the Inn at Bay Harbor and the Bay Harbor Hotel

Immediate plans for Upper Village destination services, dining and retail along U.S. 31

Ample parking

Easy access to the beloved Little Traverse Wheelway

Great Lakes Center for the Arts, opening in July 2018

Nearly one mile of public parks on the East and West ends of the property


Bay Harbor 2017 Events

Highlights of what’s happening in Bay Harbor in the months ahead

In-Water Boat Show – 15th annual  June 16-18

19th Annual Bay Harbor Vintage Car and Boat Festival June 22-24

Fireworks Display and Petoskey Steel Drum Band, July 3

Fourth of July Parade on Main Street, July 4

Hospice-tality Cocktail Party and Chef Auction, July 6

Boyne Thunder Poker Run, July 8 (view the boats from the Bay Harbor Observation Platform!)

Paws for a Party, Bay Harbor Foundation Event, July 13

Bay Harbor Foundation’s “Sit and Stay” Auction fundraiser, Adirondack chairs for auction, July 27

18th Annual Bay Harbor Arts Festival, July 28-29

2nd annual Bay Harbor/Boyne Pro-am Charity Golf Classic, Aug. 20-21

Bay Harbor Home Tour, Sept. 16

Trunk or Treat, Oct. 31



Find more events and updates on Facebook! @bayharbormi




Bay Harbor is an award-winning development best known for its environmentally sensitive communities and home sites, designed in ecological harmony with the land. Bay Harbor is situated on 1,200 picturesque acres along the Lake Michigan shoreline and exceeds previous standards for planning, quality, and world-class luxurious amenities. Commercial spaces for retail, offices or restaurants are currently available. For more information, contact Bay Harbor at 231.439.2650, or visit