It’s safe to say at this point in 2020, everyone could use something to look forward to.

But looking ahead doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting the past, as shown by the massive multiuse event space currently under construction in the village of Vicksburg. 

Located in the southern part of Kalamazoo County, about 20 minutes from the city of Kalamazoo — and just over an hour from Grand Rapids — Vicksburg is one of many small towns in Michigan that had been rocked, repeatedly, well before the economic downturn of this year’s pandemic or even the 2008-09 financial crisis. 

The community had seen many of its longstanding employers pull up stakes or fold completely over the past 30 years, leaving an increasing number of its Main Street storefronts empty and its financial future uncertain. 

Perhaps largest of all in Vicksburg’s downturn was the closure of the historic Lee Paper Mill, last occupied by Fox River Paper Co., in 2001. The closing left many without jobs and the massive 420,000-square-foot site empty. It remained vacant until 2014, when it was scheduled for demolition. 

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