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Imagine the Possibilities of Calling Downtown Kalamazoo Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home - The Exchange

Many of us are accustomed to the several stops we make after getting off of work. We either run errands, like a stop by the bank, getting a haircut, or meeting friends at a restaurant for dinner; and then of course we drive home for the evening. But it might be harder to imagine doing it without ever getting in a car... or leaving the block we live on... or not ever leaving the building we live in. However, many new mixed-use developments in downtown Kalamazoo, will soon afford local residents those very opportunities.

The housing market in downtown Kalamazoo is booming, and there are many new housing options being developed. In 2015, the City of Kalamazoo commissioned a target market analysis to assess the demand for housing throughout the community. The analysis showed a demand for more than 1000 urban housing units over the next five years.

Rebekah Kik, Director of Kalamazoo Community Planning & Development, discussed the implications of the report regarding the information and the Imagine Kalamazoo initiative.

"Residents have expressed to us where, how, and what types of housing they would like to see in their neighborhoods and we are responding by removing barriers to development, and looking for creative partnerships to funding as well", said Kik.

Many of these new living spaces are being developed in the heart of downtown Kalamazoo.
Construction began recently on one such development the Exchange, located across from the Radisson on the corner of Rose and Michigan Avenue. Completion is expected spring of 2019. However, there have already been commercial leases issued, and they are accepting reservations for the 133 residential units that will be in the building, which will include 2 bedroom, 1 bedroom, and studio units.

Greg Taylor, principal of Phoenix Properties LLC., talks about the appeal of mixed-use developments, "Mixed-use developments are attractive to residents because there are onsite amenities, like restaurants, or banks that you don't have to exit your property to access. There are opportunities for employees to work all day and sleep all night in the same space."

He also acknowledges that the State of Michigan uses incentives to encourage developers to create mixed-use developments to bring more residency into the downtown areas. There also is a national trend of urban living which is attractive to all age groups from young professionals, to empty nesters who are looking for a different lifestyle for a period of their lives. Kalamazoo is part of that trend.

Currently there are already several mixed-use developments in downtown Kalamazoo. Among them are several buildings in the River's Edge community, a quick 5 minute walk from downtown Kalamazoo. These buildings offer many different options for housing and commercial space.

For example Walbridge Common, has sixteen, 320 square foot micro apartments. These units include a full bathroom and kitchen area. They are designed for people who want to live in the city and simply sleep in their apartment. Walbridge Common also features efficiency, one and two bedroom apartments as well as a commercial restaurant space. Other developments in this area offer both traditional and loft style apartments, as well as office and art studio spaces.

Looking to the future, the picture for development in downtown Kalamazoo continues to be rosy with other mixed-use development projects in the works.

Merchants Crossing was once a collection of distressed and contaminated commercial buildings just a 5 minute walking distance from downtown Kalamazoo, on the banks of the Kalamazoo River. In effort to clean-up the area an intergovernmental collaboration between the Kalamazoo County Land Bank, the Kalamazoo Treasury office, and the Department of Environmental Quality, along with a $200,000 grant from the State of Michigan worked to gain control of the site.

Kelly Clarke, Executive Director of the Kalamazoo County Land Bank shared, "This is a great example of how intergovernmental partnerships can harness their resources together to make an underutilized and distressed site in a key area of our community ready for development." This site is now accepting requests for proposals.

Another element of the appeal of urban living is the sustainability piece. Taylor explains, "Many people have started shopping for housing by asking, 'How responsible have the developers been in minimizing my footprint on the environment?'"

He points to a website that can calculate the 'Walk Score' for a residence. This site independently measures how accessible the basic amenities of life are by foot in order to help people make their housing decisions based on sustainability.

Clarke believes that the location and sustainability of Merchants Crossing will appeal to many people. She sees it being developed as a mixed-use property that will address the 'strong interest in walkable neighborhoods and mixed-use developments available in downtown Kalamazoo.'

Whatever the reasons are for deciding urban living is right for you, many more Kalamazoo residents will soon have more opportunities to call downtown Kalamazoo home.

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