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From Neglected to Nurtured: Riverview Launch

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Riverview Launch barn after

Once neglected and dilapidated, Riverview Launch has undergone a stunning transformation into a nurtured and restored community space thanks to Kalamazoo's emphasis on community efforts.

We originally connected you with these efforts in a blog by Sheri Welsh in May 2014, but what has happened since then you may wonder.

Fear not! We have an update for you including details on three upcoming community events to celebrate Riverview's progress and mission, but first a bit of background is in order.

Facilitated by the Kalamazoo County Land Bank, the project focused on six acres on the Kalamazoo River which once held a vacant, abandoned, tax-foreclosed, blighted, commercial structure on an underutilized portion of the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail.

The space is now home to renovated and re-imagined facilities including a conference room with capacity for up to 40 people; "the hub," a smaller gathering space for up to 25 people, and a historic barn with space for up to 75 people surrounded by native plantings. Each of these spaces may be rented for public use and are intended to be a place where people and ideas come together.

Riverview Launch barn

Kelly Clarke stressed that the whole project - from ideas and finances to rehabilitation work - has been a community effort. Brainstorming conversations about the space began locally within the community rather than a handful of leaders pursuing their own visions, Clarke said. Community input fine-tuned the project's direction and has made the launch as a foundation for building relationships in addition to creating a new community space.

None of this work would have been possible without major contributions from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, Consumers Energy, Kalamazoo County Government, Kalamazoo Community Foundation, Local Initiative Support Corporation of Kalamazoo, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Stryker Johnston Foundation, and the Land Bank. There have also been a number of individual donors who have contributed financially and with their time.

Riverview Launch volunteers

In order to push the project over the finish line, a Fundly campaign was created to collect donations from individuals and supporters. The campaign's goal is $25,000.

The names of donors - large and small - who contribute to the campaign by Sept. 30 will be displayed on the wall of the barn as a firefly, honeybee, or other native wildlife.

To keep the momentum and spirit of collaboration rolling at the launch, Clarke said volunteers are also needed.

"Volunteers can be used on site to help us transform the great community space," Clarke said. "We need their ideas, their hands to tend to garden beds or to help with parking or other logistics at events, funding leads, transformative suggestions, and programming ideas. We need their help in envisioning what we can do with the space now that we have it. It's a wonderful outdoor space for programming needs."

While there are still funds to be raised and smaller projects to be completed at Riverview Launch, Clarke is looking forward to an open house Thursday, Sept. 10, from 4 to 7 p.m.

"We're celebrating the amazing progress and completion of the Riverview vision," Clarke said.

Located at 1523 Riverview Drive, the event will feature games, entertainment, and the opportunity to tour the gardens, grounds, and new spaces.

For more information on the Riverview Launch project and how you can get involved, visit www.riverviewlaunch.com.

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