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  #21  
Old Posted Mar 29, 2017, 3:31 PM
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Construction in Portage on Pace not seen since Great Recession

There's an article from today (3/29/17) in MLive, outlining the building boom currently happening in Portage. It is incredible how much money is being invested into the area, primarily by two massive companies - Pfizer and Stryker - I calculate it to be more than $1.1 billion in development / construction-related dollars to be spend in the next five years. Some more detailed renderings of the planned $150 million+ Stryker corporate campus expansion development are included in the article, along with other construction progress photo updates. All photos from MLive, where you can also read the full article. I included a portion of the article below, but pictures first, because they're more fun.


Image: Rendering of Stryker Instruments Corporate Campus Expansion


Image: Rendering of Stryker Instruments Corporate Campus Expansion


Image: Construction progress at Trade Centre III, this will be five stories when complete (that's tall for Portage - so tall, a height variance was required!)


Image: Construction progress at Pfizer Cold-Storage Warehouse, on Portage Rd.


Image: A rendering of the finished warehouse at Pfizer.


Image: Construction progress at 3020 Old Centre Rd, on a new dental practice facility.

Also included with the article were 'before and after' aerial views of the City of Portage. The black and white image is taken in 1950, and the color image from 2015. You can see I-94 snaking along the north edge of the image in the 2015 aerial, as well as the explosive suburban growth along the S. Westnedge corridor. The Kalamazoo International Airport is top right, and Pfizer is south of that.


Image: City of Portage, 1950 Aerial


Image: City of Portage, 2015 Aerial

Quote:
Construction in Portage on Pace not seen since Great Recession
By Brad Devereaux, via MLive
March 29, 2017

PORTAGE, MI -- New construction value in Portage is on pace to outperform every other year since the Great Recession, figures for the first half of this fiscal year show. And that doesn't include some of Portage's biggest industrial projects ever, planned for the near future but still in the pre-construction phase.

After the nationwide housing market crash in 2008, the economy first showed signs of improvement in Portage's industrial sector, Community Development Director Vicki Georgeau said, followed by upticks in commercial and retail activity. In the past year, for the first time since the downturn, homes are now being built in Portage without a specific buyer in mind. "That's something we haven't seen in a long time," Georgeau said. Because of the growth, Portage officials are projecting a 5 percent increase in its property tax base, based on assessed values as of the end of 2016. The assessment roll becomes final at the end of March, she said. 

Outpacing other years

Portage police helped with traffic control when a new Chick-fil-A restaurant opened Feb. 23 off South Westnedge in Portage's main shopping district, where a dedicated lane of traffic and a route through a parking lot was set up to accommodate up to 75 cars waiting in line for fried chicken. The new restaurant is part of the $57.5 million in construction value that Portage experienced in the first six months of the fiscal year, through Dec. 31, Georgeau said.



The six-month total includes residential developments like a $6.2-million investment for 70 new apartment units at Greenspire Apartments, and commercial projects like a new $13.2-million five-story office building Trade Centre III, where steel was being erected in early March. Redeveloped properties in existing buildings also contribute to the total. It includes a new building being constructed now at 3020 Old Centre Road for Portage Pediatric Dentistry, an existing business Jody Wrathall bought in January....

Pfizer expansions

A new $40.8-million warehouse Pfizer is building now next to an existing facility on the southeast corner of Portage and Romence is tallied among construction value recorded in the first half of this fiscal year. It represents a fraction of the company's plans to spend on construction in Portage in coming years. The cold-storage warehouse will store about 150 million bulk injectable vials annually before inspection or packaging, Pfizer Kalamazoo Site Leader Bob Betzig said. Pfizer is also planning a new $105-million Act-O-Vial work center, where workers will prepare and fill the single-dose vials with injectable medications made at the Portage facility. That project is not included in the city's current fiscal year figures. Later, Pfizer plans to invest another $800 million over the next five years to improve currents infrastructure and contemporize equipment as part of its plans for the Pfizer Industrial Development District, which Portage recently approved plans for.

The planned spending is an increase compared to $900 million invested in current and new facilities over the past eight years in the city, Betzig said.
The Portage facility is the largest and most complex of Pfizer's 63 manufacturing sites worldwide, Betzig said, and supports nearly $6 billion of the company's annual revenue with a supply of nearly 100 active pharmaceutical ingredients and 50 finished pharmaceutical formulations.
"The technical scope and scale of the operations are significant and competitive in the global marketplace," he said. "Continuing to leverage that strong base for future growth in a competitive and regulated industry makes good business sense."

The W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research Impact Study shows that Pfizer's Portage site had $2.2 billion in output and total employment of 5,680 in 2016. Pfizer's new investments will maintain current jobs while adding at least 15 additional roles, Betzig said. 

Stryker to develop farm fields

Stryker Instrument's $154-million proposed investment for new construction and site improvements across Portage Road from the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport would include construction of public roads to open 288 acres of land and build a 485,000-square-foot research and development facility, according to plans submitted to the city.

Georgeau said the development will be "transformative" for Portage.
Stryker purchased the land in October from Pfizer for $8.5 million.
A customer experience center will be part of the facility, as well as a showroom, labs for research and development and bio-skills and space for sales, marketing and support functions. The building is meant to encourage collaboration and communications among product and marketing teams, Senior Director of Marketing Communications Jennifer Lentner said.

Development plans for other Stryker-owned parcels at the site are not yet defined, though city officials believe Pfizer will build more there or sell some of the land to other businesses for industrial development. A new public roadway connecting Lovers Lane to the east and Portage Road to the west is part of the plan, meant to aide in keeping commercial traffic off of the residential streets on the south side of the site. There will be support for improvements to Portage Road and Lovers Lane and improvements to I-94, she said. Enhancements to the outdoor quality of life in the area will be part of the development, with new biking and running trails and the preservation of trees and natural spaces, Lentner said. 

"This community has played a very important role in the history of our company -- our founder started the business here," Lentner said. "Southwest Michigan offers a great quality of life and cost of living, and our company and our employees are a big part of the community."

More customers traveling to the site could have a positive impact on the local economy, Lentner said, and partnerships with colleges and the K-12 educational community will remain important areas of focus. The Stryker facility will bring an estimated 105 high-quality jobs with an average annual salary of $68,000, Georgeau said, and add millions of dollars to the city's tax base.

More for Portage

Tax breaks that Portage approved for the Stryker and Pfizer projects will mean the city and others will receive less money in the short-term, but they will provide long-term tax benefits for Portage, Georgeau said. Officials also expect that some of the new employees will live and work in the city, and spend money there. Portage Mayor Peter J. Strazdas said the developments are helping improve quality of life, noting more income for people, more shopping, and more businesses expanding. With more tax dollars coming in, he said the city can make improvements and has been able to reduce its debt. It means Portage could have a millage reduction in the future, he said.
 
"The social implications of employers with good paying jobs, it's something you really can't measure, but you know it will make Portage a better community," he said.

He acknowledged there's always problems with growth, but thinks of them more as challenges in Portage. As cities grow, residents sometimes see more socioeconomic issues and issues with crime, traffic and infrastructure, he said. 

"It's not all rosy, as you grow you have growing challenges," he said. "It has great opportunities such as increases in income but it comes with more expenses."

Shannan Garman, former general manager of The Crossroads mall through March 17, said new jobs coming to the area will be a boon for retailers including the 99 stores at the mall. She noted the Stryker and Pfizer developments among other strengths of the region's market like its expanding brewing industry, and the 2013 addition of the Kalamazoo Growlers baseball team.

"We're always excited for the successes of businesses and people within this market, and we're certainly looking forward to welcoming the employees of Pfizer and Stryker to the mall," she said, noting the possible synergy between businesses as more development happens.

The projected tax base increase of 5 percent compares to negative growth or flat growth in other recent years, Georgeau said. 
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  #22  
Old Posted Mar 30, 2017, 5:37 PM
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Stryker clears final hurdle for new development

Stryker Instruments' $154 million Portage development clears final hurdle

Stryker cleared its final hurdle for its development plans with the Portage City Council and Planning Commission on Tuesday night. This included approval of "final engineering drawings, land division surveys, a height variance and vehicle access to Ramona Avenue..." This, from an article posted by MLive on the morning of 3/29/17. Link to the full article

That same afternoon, seemingly discordant news also came from MLive that Stryker is "undergoing an organizational restructuring that will mean a loss of jobs for an undisclosed number of people at the medical technologies company." The link to that second article is here.

According to the company press release, this will include "limited reductions in our [Stryker's] workforce" and will have no bearing on the just-approved development plans. The company has also stated that they plan to hire an additional 100 people to help staff the new facility that will break ground soon.


Image: Stryker - Approved Portage Development Site Plan
Image Source: MLive
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  #23  
Old Posted Mar 31, 2017, 3:40 PM
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Governor signs corrections bills in Kalamazoo cafe

Haven't been there yet, but it's nice to see this newly opened café, part of the Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program, getting some state-wide attention.


Image: Governor Snyder and other officials at the newly opened Walnut & Park Coffee Shop, part of the KPEP program (Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program).
Image Source: WTVB

Quote:
Governor signs corrections bills in Kalamazoo café
John McNeil, WTVB News
Thursday, March 30, 2017

KALAMAZOO (WKZO-AM/FM) -- Gov. Rick Snyder and a group of Michigan lawmakers came to the Walnut and Park Coffee Shop in Kalamazoo on Thursday to sign a huge criminal justice reform package into law. The initiative includes 19 different measures. It makes a number of technical and program changes to employ best practices to successfully reintegrate prisoners back into their communities, find them jobs and to reduce the rate of recidivism, which currently stands at about 75 percent. State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, sponsored several of the bills, including an update of the swift-and-sure sanctioning model.

"The swift and sure and recidivism measures are about putting best practices to use to reduce crime, help more prisoners become productive citizens and keep young people from engaging in a life of crime," Proos said. "Recidivism is a huge cost to the state and our communities. This new approach will use incentives and evidence-based supervision practices to reduce parole and probation violations and the repetition of crime."

The coffee shop in Kalamazoo employs parolees and probationers.
You can link to the full article here.
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  #24  
Old Posted Mar 31, 2017, 3:46 PM
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WMU considering addition to Waldo Library for new student center

In other news, WMU is considering constructing a new student center addition and renovating the existing Waldo Library, which is rather dated-looking. The plan is in the early stages, but the article does state that Perkins + Will has been hired for the programming / concept development phase at least.


Image: Exterior view of the current Waldo Library on WMU's main campus.
Image Source: MLive

Quote:
WMU considering addition to Waldo Library for new student center
By Madison Bennett, via MLive
March 31, 2017

KALAMAZOO, MI - Western Michigan University is considering building a new student center. WMU has set a meeting for April 10 to get input from the campus community on a student center that would be constructed as an addition to a renovated Waldo Library. The university described the center as a "new integrated learning and activity hub," in a news release.

"The vision for the University Library and Student Center is to provide a technology-rich environment for integrated experiences, interactive engagement, cultural exchange, active learning and discovery outside of the classroom," the release said. "As a community hub for the entire university, the project is being planned to foster positive and creative interactions as well as intellectual and social exploration, and to create a distinctive

The meeting Monday, April 10 from 3 to 5 p.m. in the first-floor lounge of the Bernhard Center on WMU's main campus is open to the public. It will start with a presentation by a team from Perkins + Will, the architecture and design firm hired by WMU to develop the concept for the project consistent with the university's strategic and comprehensive master plans. Team members will present an overview of their work to date and answer audience questions. An open house will follow the presentation so people can engage with team members individually. Refreshments will be provided.
You can link to the full article here.
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  #25  
Old Posted Apr 2, 2017, 3:10 AM
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Fifth location for Water Street Coffee Joint will be drive-thru only

This is super-small development news, but Water Street Coffee Joint, which is held in much greater esteem than Starbucks by many Kalamazooans, will be opening its fifth location this summer on the busy South Sprinkle Road. The foundation work is underway now. You can see in the photos the miniscule footprint that this building will have. Although it is going to just be a tiny drive through along this busy arterial road, I think it's probably a positive for that area, and a sign of increased pace of development near the Sprinkle Rd / I-94 area.





Image Source: MLive



Quote:
Fifth location for Water Street Coffee Joint will be drive-thru only
By Al Jones, via MLive
March 28, 2017

KALAMAZOO, MI - Water Street Coffee Joint plans to open its fifth location this summer on Sprinkle Road. It will be a drive-thru only location on a busy stretch of Sprinkle Road, at 2603 S. Sprinkle Road. The business, which sells fresh-brewed coffees and espressos as well as salads, soups, shakes, smoothies, made-from scratch foods, sandwiches, desserts and treats, is in the process of converting a small site formerly used by the Miller's Smoke House.

...
Just to share, I found images of the other four current locations on Water Street Coffee Joint's website.


Image: Water Street Coffee Joint's original location - opened Downtown in 1993 on the corner of Kalamazoo Ave and Water St. The building dates back to 1934 and was originally a service station.


Image: Water Street Coffee Joint's second location - opened summer 2003 on the corner of Oakland Drive and Whites Road in the Oakwood neighborhood.


Image: Water Street Coffee Joint's third location - opened 2010 in the main atrium of Borgess Medical Center on Gull Road.


Image: Water Street Coffee Joint's fourth location - opened January 2015 on the corner of Shaver Rd. and Centre Ave. in Portage.


Image: A painting of the original Water Street location, I believe the artist is Joe Vanderbos.

Now go back to looking at skyscrapers on a different thread.

Last edited by deja vu; Jun 9, 2017 at 11:34 PM.
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  #26  
Old Posted Apr 2, 2017, 9:32 PM
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Project Rundown Updates

I thought of some more recent (completed) developments worth including in the project rundown. You can link directly to the first post here, where the projects are generally arranged chronologically by completion date. A summary of this round of project additions is below, along with smaller images. Larger images are in the opening post, along with additional project images and all image credits. These are all 'low-rise developments' but important indicators of the ongoing growth and development of the region. More to come as I think of them.

Bell's Brewery Expansion

Completion Date: Fall, 2016
Location: Comstock
Involved Parties: Bell's Brewery Inc, Byce & Associates (Architects / Engineers), Walbridge (CM)
Summary: Multiple phased projects to expand facilities. The most recent project included a $50 million, 200,000 SF facility expansion to add a new packaging / bottling hall, a warehouse logistics center, a point-of-sale warehouse, new offices and employee areas, an 800 barrel fermentation addition, and a Two Hearted fermentation addition . The expansion allowed production to increase from 800,000 barrels per year to 1,000,000 barrels.



Consumers Credit Union - The Corner @ Drake

Completion Date: 2016



Field & Stream - The Corner @ Drake

Completion Date: 2016



Consumers Energy Solar Gardens, WMU Business Technology & Research Park

Completion Date: August, 2016
Location: 4601 Campus Drive
Involved Parties: Western Michigan University, Consumers Energy
Summary: 8.5 acres, 1-megawatt solar power plant at Western's BTR Park. This marks Consumers' second large-scale solar project in Michigan, the first being a 3-megawatt plant at Grand Valley State University that opened in April.



Family & Children Services Expansion

Completion Date: November, 2016
Location: 1608 Lake St.
Involved Parties: Family & Children Services, Kingscott Associates (Architect), Miller-Davis (CM)
Summary: Two-story, 14,000 SF addition to Family & Children Services' Kalamazoo facility, marking the largest building project in the organization's 100+ year history. Family & Children Services provides services in youth development and counseling for children and families. The new addition is dedicated to services that support foster children and their foster families.



Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership

Completion Date: 2014
Location: Aacademy St, Kalamazoo College
Involved Parties: Kalamazoo College, Studio Gang (Architect)
Summary: This 10,000 SF hub for advancing social justice packs a lot of design into a small area. The Center was developed to promote and sustain leaders in the fields of human rights and social justice, and features 'wood masonry' technology to create a low-tech, high-performance exterior façade.



Greenleaf Trust

Completion Date: 2009
Location: 211 S Rose St
Involved Parties: Greenleaf Trust, Eckert-Wordell (Architect)
Summary: A 38,000 SF renovation to create new office space for Greenleaf Trust, a wealth management firm. The original structure was built in 1921, and its renovation was part of a larger downtown revitalization effort.



Norbridge Building

Completion Date: 2014
Location: 510 E. Butler Ct. (River's Edge Neighborhood)
Involved Parties: NoMi (Developer)
Summary: Norbridge was completed in 2014 as a multi-use building featuring one 8,000 square foot office space and five loft style apartments.



Walbridge Common Apartments

Completion Date: Summer, 2016
Location: 714 Walbridge St. (River's Edge Neighborhood)
Involved Parties: NoMi (Developers)
Summary: 48 apartments and a restaurant in a renovated, 34,000 SF warehouse built in 1924, located in the northeast Kalamazoo River’s Edge District. 



610 S. Burdick St. / InterAct

Completion Date: 2011
Location: 610 S. Burdick St
Involved Parties: InterAct, Hinman Company (Developer)
Summary: A 24,000 SF, LEED Gold-certified, Class A single tenant office building. Home to the Kalamazoo offices of InterAct, a mental health and substance abuse treatment center, this was a Brownfield Redevelopment Project.



Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Completion Date: 2015
Location: Bronson Healthy Living Campus
Involved Parties: City of Kalamazoo, Bronson Healthcare Group, Eckert Wordell (Architect)
Summary: 17,000 SF facility, part of the new Bronson Healthy Living Campus, where guiding principles address issues of nutrition, mental and physical health, sustainability, and social concerns.



KVCC Student Success Center

Completion Date: 2010
Location: 6767 W O Ave, Texas Township
Involved Parties: Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Eckert Wordell (Architect)
Summary: 73,000 SF addition + renovations to KVCC's main campus in Texas Township. The project was designed to bring all student services under one roof while expanding and refurbishing campus areas for classrooms, labs, faculty offices, and maintenance. The building followed LEED design guidelines and features a large green roof.



Landscape Forms - Powder Coat Finishing Facility

Completion Date: 2015
Location: Midlink Office Park
Involved Parties: Landscape Forms, Eckert Wordell (Architect)
Summary: 166,000 SF renovation to create a new powder coat finishing facility, offices, and employee space for this industry leader in site furnishings and outdoor LED lighting.



Portage Northern HS - Addition & Renovations

Completion Date: 2011
Location: 1000 Idaho Ave, Portage
Involved Parties: Portage Public Schools, TMP (Architect), AVB, Inc. (CM)
Summary: Part of a $120 million bond proposal, this $25 million, project included a 55,000 SF addition and 185,000 SF of renovations to the existing Portage Northern High School. The new addition contains a cafeteria, administrative and counseling offices, school store, and common areas. The renovations included enlarged learning spaces and new science labs. The High School has a current enrollment of around 1,400 students.



Portage Central High School

Completion Date: 2010
Location: 8135 South Westnedge Avenue, Portage
Involved Parties: Portage Public Schools, TMP (Architect), AVB, Inc. (CM)
Summary: Part of a $120 million bond proposal, this $40 million, 280,000 SF new high school was built around an existing auditorium saved from the earlier high school, which was demolished during the construction process .The three story structure has an enrollment of about 1,400 students.




Portage Lake Center Elementary School

Completion Date: 2010
Location: 10011 Portage Rd, Portage
Involved Parties: Portage Public Schools, TMP (Architect), AVB, Inc. (CM)
Summary: Part of a $120 million bond proposal, this $10.2 million school was built near the site of Portage's first school building. It is two-stories, 73,000 SF, and serves about 600 K-5 students.



Portage 12th Street Elementary School

Completion Date: 2009
Location: 6501 S. 12th St, Portage
Involved Parties: Portage Public Schools, TMP (Architect), Byce & Associates (Architect Sub), AVB, Inc. (CM)
Summary: The first new school in Portage in 15 years. Part of a $120 million bond proposal, this $14.8 million, two-story, 72,000-square-foot school was constructed to serve 500 K-5 students. It features very similar plans to the Lake Center Elementary, constructed with the same bond dollars (to save on design costs).



Radisson Plaza Hotel Renovations

Completion Date: 2012
Location: 100 W. Michigan Ave.
Involved Parties: Radisson, Eckert-Wordell (Architect)
Summary: Project included a full design of the lobby and registration areas, as well as renovations to guest rooms and event areas for downtown's premier hotel.



Stryker Medical - Consolidated Facilities

Completion Date: 2006
Location: 3800 E Centre Ave, Portage
Involved Parties: Stryker Medical, Eckert Wordell (Architect)
Summary: 435,000 facility to consolidate the operations of two outdated existing plants under one roof. Contains manufacturing space, offices, employee cafeteria, research and development spaces, and a product showroom.



Nova Virtual Reality Arcade

Completion Date: December, 2016
Location: 806 S Westnedge Ave (Vine Neighborhood)
Involved Parties: Nova VR
Summary: Interior fit-out of an existing structure to house a new virtual reality arcade in the eclectic Vine Neighborhood.



Western Michigan University - Heritage Hall Alumni Center / Former East Hall Renovation

Completion Date: Fall, 2015
Location: WMU East Campus, Prospect Hill
Involved Parties: Western Michigan University, Tower Pinkster (Architect), Hopkins Burns Design Studio, Ann Arbor (Preservation Architect)
Summary: This structure, one of the original of the university, was designed by John Charles Olmsted and Fredrick Law Olmsted Jr. (sons of famous landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmsted Sr) and constructed in 1903. The repurposing of the building into an Alumni Center involved partial demolition of two wing additions, as well as demolition of several surrounding structures, also original to the campus (West Hall, Speech and Hearing Building, and North Hall).



Western Michigan University - Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center

Completion Date: Fall, 2013
Location: WMU Oakland Dr. Campus (1650 Oakland Dr)
Involved Parties: Western Michigan University
Summary: An $8.7 million new building to house WMU's Archives, Regional History Collections, and the entire Kalamazoo Gazette Archive. The project achieved LEED Silver, and features 3-ft high, high-density storage units.



Western Michigan University - New Chemistry Building

Completion Date: 2007
Location: WMU West (Main) Campus
Involved Parties: Western Michigan University, Holabird & Root (Architect), Miller-Davis (CM)
Summary: A new 85,000 SF building for the Chemistry Department, designed to support collaborative learning.



Western Michigan University - Sangren Hall

Completion Date: 2012
Location: 4121 Sangren Hall - 1903 W Michigan Ave.
Involved Parties: WMU, SHW Group (Architect), Miller-Davis Company (CM)
Summary: This new structure replaced an earlier Sangren Hall, providing 30% more classroom seats and achieving LEED Gold certification. The estimated construction cost was $47 million for the 230,000 SF building, which has reshaped the central part of the university's main campus.


Last edited by deja vu; Apr 2, 2017 at 9:50 PM.
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Old Posted Apr 4, 2017, 1:20 AM
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Alamo Drafthouse Kalamazoo continues past April 3 closing date

Kind of anti-development news...

Alamo Drafthouse, Downtown Kalamazoo's beer-and-full-meal-serving cineplex, was supposed to close today, but it is apparently remaining open for at least a few more days. The announcement was made rather abruptly two months ago that the 10 screen theater would close April 3, without any more information given as to why, or what would happen to it, or who might take it over.

I went there for the first time a few weeks ago with a group of friends, if only to experience it once (and to see Beauty and the Beast - of secondary importance). It was obvious that the employees were pretty much checked out. The service was weak, they had run out of nearly everything, and the place was almost empty. I find it hard to believe that a cinema that serves craft beers is struggling to survive in a city like Kalamazoo, but maybe there are other reasons beyond poor attendance.

I think most locals hope that a downtown cinema remains at this site in some capacity, but it was clear upon my visit that whoever takes it over, if anyone, should do some major renovations and updates, as the whole venue felt dated and worn down. The restrooms and theater spaces were especially raggedy.


Image: Alamo Drafthouse Exterior


Image: Interior lobby / bar area


Image: Jane Fonda is not 'phased' by the news of Alamo's immenent closing.
All Images Source: MLive

Quote:
Alamo Drafthouse Kalamazoo continues past April 3 closing date
By Al Jones, via MLive
April 03, 2017

KALAMAZOO, MI -- April 3 was not the final day of operation for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in downtown Kalamazoo. Showings at the 10-screen multiplex -- which introduced the dinner-with-a-movie concept to downtown Kalamazoo in November of 2013 -- will continue through Thursday and, perhaps, beyond. No new announcement has been made on when Alamo will end its tenure at 180 Portage St., said James Sanford, creative director for the venue. Alamo had stated in a social media posting on Feb. 1 that it would close on April 3. No reasons were provided for the closing.

"We are still open and we will continue to post our showtimes on the web site," Sanford said Monday, referring to www.drafthouse.com/kalamazoo.

Alamo Drafthouse Kalamazoo is one of a chain of about 25 theaters that are a part of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, an Austin, Texas-based company that was started in 1997. When it announced plans to close its downtown Kalamazoo location, it indicated that EPR Properties, the owner of the 10-screen movie complex used by Alamo, hoped to announce a new theater operator soon. But none has yet been announced.

...
Link to the full article here.

Last edited by deja vu; Jun 9, 2017 at 11:35 PM.
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Old Posted Apr 5, 2017, 9:34 PM
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Discover Kalamazoo sues Southwest Michigan First over use of '269'

Apparently you can trademark area codes?

It seems rather silly that one nonprofit would try to sue another over rights to a three-digit number, but that's what Discover Kalamazoo, the city's convention and visitors bureau organization, is planning to do to Southwest Michigan First, a local economic development organization. The mission of both groups is essentially the same - to promote development and economic strength in the region. 269 is the area code serving southwest Michigan.

Quote:
Discover Kalamazoo sues Southwest Michigan First over use of '269'
By Emily Monacelli, via MLive
April 05, 2017

KALAMAZOO, MI - Kalamazoo County's convention and visitors bureau has sued its economic development organization over the use of the region's 269 area code. Discover Kalamazoo filed a lawsuit Tuesday, April 4, in U.S. District Court alleging Southwest Michigan First has infringed on its trademark rights to 269.

The complaint says Discover Kalamazoo has used "269" to identify its services since 2010 and that Southwest Michigan First approached it about using the mark for a regional publication. Discover Kalamazoo was open to an agreement if its trademark rights were protected and it could be done in a way that would not confuse the public, but Southwest Michigan First "rejected and refused that simple, mutually beneficial request," states the lawsuit, filed by attorneys Dennis Levasseur of Detroit and the firm Hueschen & Sage PLLC of Kalamazoo.

...
Link to the full article.

Last edited by deja vu; Jun 9, 2017 at 11:35 PM.
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Old Posted Apr 6, 2017, 6:30 PM
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Save The Stack: Campaign to save historical landmark perseveres

I hope this gets saved...


Image: The Iconic Gibson Guitar Factor Smokestack
Image Source: Second Wave Media


Image Source: Second Wave Media


Quote:
Save The Stack: Campaign to save historical landmark perseveres
By Christopher Horb, via Second Wave MediaSecond Wave
Thursday, April 06, 2017

For 100 years the smokestack of the original Gibson Guitar factory has towered proudly over the Northside Kalamazoo skyline heralding the city's place in music history. And though it seemed just a couple of years ago that the time-worn structure's days were numbered, the folks behind the "Save the Stack" campaign are continuing to seek public funds in hopes of ensuring this local landmark will continue to stand for many more years to come. Organizers are hoping public interest translates into dollars as the restoration project carries a hefty $570,000 price tag, according to Jeff Mitchell who helped start the campaign a few years ago.

...

Last edited by deja vu; Jun 9, 2017 at 11:36 PM.
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Old Posted Apr 8, 2017, 6:16 PM
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Portage Construction Update - April 08, 2017

Two days ago I awoke to 2" of snow on the ground. So today when I awoke to blue skies, sunshine, and the promise of temps in the mid-60s, I thought I'd take a drive and do a mini construction update for Portage. All photos taken by myself.

Starting with the largest in-progress construction project, Trade Center 3, just north of I-94. The steel is rising fast on this one.



Oh how I wish that this could be 10, even 5 stories taller. But with Portage zoning ordinance what it is, there are severe height restrictions (I think 60 feet maximum height, due mostly due to the nearby airport). So even at just 5 stories, this latest addition to the Trade Center development required a height variance. Another angle:



That's the new-ish Homewood Suites in the background. New development is happening everywhere in Portage, but with its strict height limits, relatively cheap land, and relatively pro-business practices, the City of Portage is destined to be one defined by low-rise, suburbany-feeling development.

Cue Exhibit B: here is the recently completed commercial plaza at the corner of South Westnedge and West Milham Avenues.



It is anchored by Design 1, a hair salon / spa, and also has a Tropical Smoothie Café, Weight Loss Center, and some other spa-type services. Nothing that would really cater to me, but as a building, I do think it's an improvement over the two underutilized commercial structures that were demolished to make room for it.



Meh. I would have hated it more if it was single story.

Further west on Milham, you find the new Story Point senior living community.



The building is occupied, although it looked like there were a lot of different specialty services and utility folks still on the premise, probably doing things like hooking up cable internet. There are a bunch of these types of communities cropping up in southwest Michigan. I can't keep up with them all.



Right across the street from this development, on the north side of Milham, is the new Copperleaf subdivision, built by Allen Edwin Homes. Phase 1 is wrapping up, consisting of single-family detached residences, and folks were literally moving in as I drove through the development. It looked mostly like lots of young families with children, which I'd wager is the general target demographic for most of the new housing construction happening in Portage.





Honestly, the 'architecture' of these homes could be much worse. There's a vague 'crafstman' vibe, and the multi-colored siding helps to alleviate some of the monotony of the similar floorplans. I think including the sidewalks helps. But I still think the homes have that whole 'garage with a house attached' feel to them.






(The Hummer completes the picture).

The homes start in the $220's, and with good parks, good schools, a major highway, regional shopping mall and commercial strip all in the immediate vicinity, it seems like only a matter of time before this whole area becomes built-up with similar looking...stuff.

Journeying south a bit, I came across an interesting private residence along Moorsbridge Road.



A bit further south, in the large Woodbridge Hills neighborhood along Old Centre Avenue, there is a new Pediatric Dentistry going up. Not too exciting, there's a bunch of stick-framed medical suite stuff like this popping up in Portage. The slab was just poured.







Then at the corner of Oakland Drive and West Centre Avenue, there is a new Arbor Financial Credit Union branch that broke ground a few weeks ago. The foundations are poured and awaiting the slab. The credit union currently has a branch right across the street and they will be moving in here when completed.





Credit unions and bank branches are probably tied with condominium developments for the most popular form of construction happening in Portage currently. It's a sign of the growing economy in the area - there's maybe 15 - 20 newly opened or nearly opened new branch offices, all competing to cater to the growing number of residents that are entertaining the idea of buying a home.

Speaking of condos and new home ownership, here are some pictures from the ongoing Whisper Rock Condominium community being built by AVB, along South Oakland Drive. These condos are selling at prices that start in the upper $200's.








Don't even think about it - it's private!

I'm less a fan of these than say, Copperleaf. At least in Copperleaf you could probably pick out your own house form among the rest. I suppose that homogeneity is 'par for the course' when it comes to condominium developments.

The Whisper Rock Condominiums look quite similar to the adjacent, and nearly completed, Oakland Hills Condominiums, also brought to us by AVB. I don't know why, but these condos are selling for approximately twice as much more than the ones at Whisper Rock ($400's vs $200's). Maybe demand has slackened slightly.





Another small condominium development is slowly taking shape along West Osterhout Avenue, at the southern edge of Portage. This community is designed to ultimately have 12 units (6 buildings). The second one has been under construction for what seems like over a year now. Randall J. Bass is the builder. They really embodied the massive garage-in-front, small-living-space in back aesthetic. Not a big fan.





Finally, I end this low rise, low-caliber construction update with a walk in Schrier Park. I think that the extensive park system in Portage is one of the city's best assets. They do a good job taking care of the parks, and the network of trails is still expanding. Schrier Park just received a new pavilion and playground. The playground replaced an older one last fall, and the pavilion was just completed a week or two ago.





Whatever your thoughts on this round of development updates, I know one critic that is easily impressed -



- that's my dog.
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Old Posted Apr 9, 2017, 6:23 PM
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Kalamazoo Art Hop and a little Late-Night Food Truck Rally - April 07, 2017

Friday night was the April Art Hop in Kalamazoo, and there happened to be a Late-Night Food Truck Rally coinciding with this festival on the same night, so we went to check it out and had a great time. Both events are an asset to the city - they draw people downtown, and highlight some of the best that the city has to offer. Some photos that I took from both evening's events are below. I try to give credit to all artists where applicable.

The next Art Hop will be on May 5, and the next Food Truck Rally will also be in May. If for any reason you find yourself in Southwest Michigan when these events occur, I highly recommend going - it's a great way to experience the city.

Kalamazoo Art Hop



The Art Hop happens every month and usually runs from 5pm to 9pm on the first Friday of each month. Lots of bigger cities do things similar to this; the Kalamazoo one is surprisingly large for a city of its size - with 30+ venues participating this time.

From the Art Hop Website:

Quote:
Art Hop is a program of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo - an evening of art exhibits and events, one of the great things to do in Kalamazoo. It's a free event held on the first Friday of every month, it is something you can do alone, with friends or with family that’s fun, interactive, and a great way to explore our downtown. And you don’t have to be an “artist” to enjoy it.
One of the hubs of the Art Hop is the Park Trades Center, on old, four-story industrial building converted to artist's studios and workshops. On Art Hop nights, you can wander freely through the massive structure, and artist's have their doors open to visitors.



On the first floor, you find the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, which was hosting an 'edible book' contest. After the judging and awards, the 'books' were eaten. Some of my favorites:


Featured Book: Goodnight Moon


Featured Book: The Elegance of the Hedgehog


Featured Books: Pippi Longstocking, Goodnight Moon, The Giving Tree, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, The Hungry Caterpillar, Horton Hears a Who


Featured Book: Peter Rabbit


Featured Book: Unbroken
Points for creativity - don't want to eat any of it though.

The Book Arts Center offers classes in paper making, printing, book binding, etc. and has lots of cool old equipment. We got a little peak behind the scenes:




I love these old drawers, used for storing all 'types' of type.

Right next door in the same Park Trades structure is Glass Art Kalamazoo. Demonstrations in glass blowing and small glass working were being given. Many classes and volunteer opportunities are offered here year-round.


Adding green color to a drinking glass.


It's a two-person effort at times...


...or a four-person effort.


Some finished projects, on display.

The folks below were making Journey Beads, small mementos given to people (mostly children) who are going through difficult medical procedures like cancer treatment. They get another bead for each step of the journey. Anyone can volunteer to make these (with a little training, first).













Then there's a gallery up front, displaying some of the more impressive works that have been made in the studio.


"Lavender Dreams", Sally Pritko, artist


Motorcycle (I didn't catch the artist)


Assortment of vases


"Spikey Terrarium", Shannon Eakins, artist

Next we walked to the Arcus Gallery, where there was a juried art exhibit taking place. Located at the north end of the 'Kalamazoo Mall', the gallery is part of Kalamazoo Valley Community College's downtown campus.




"Walking Man", Oil on Canvas, Linda Manguiat-Herzog, artist


"Bonds of Nature's Law", Paper & Mixed Media, Ellie Hyde, artist


"Sullivan", Mixed Media, Susan Hill, artist


Looking north along the mall.


Looking south along the mall. Phase 2 of the Peregrine 100 project, which involves rehabbing a former bank building, is underway.


Signage above the main entrance of the First National Bank and Trust Company.



The paper is off the windows, so everyone was peeking inside:







Next stop was 'The Spirit of Kalamazoo' store, hosting work by artist Ellen Nelson. The store is in a relatively new downtown loft development which I think fits in well enough.




"The Sum of One's Parts", Part of a Series, Ellen Nelson, artist



There's always great photography at the Carver Gallery so we stopped in. My two favorites:


"Boys on the Jantar Mantar Observatory, Delhi, India '64", Norman F. Carver Jr., artist


"Boys on the Jantar Mantar Observatory, Delhi, India '64", Norman F. Carver Jr., artist

We also walked past the former Kalamazoo Gazette Building, the majority of which has been demolished for future development by Bronson Medical Group. Here's the original Albert Kahn-designed structure, which is being preserved:



The demo work looks nearly done.


You can see part of the Bronson Hospital complex in the background.

Now we wait to see what comes from the hospital. There's talk of constructing new medical lab space - I only hope that it can still be a mixed use development, with some commercial storefronts on the ground level to activate the street.

With the sun setting and the temperatures dropping, we headed over to the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange to grab a quick drink before going to the Late-Night Food Truck Rally. The Beer Exchange is housed in another old industrial structure that has been repurposed. Beer prices fluctuate in 'real time' at the bar as supply and demand influences the 'beer market'. When the stock market crashes, things get a little crazy, as prices plummet.


Image Source: Buy Local Kalamazoo



Image Source: MLive


Looks like the market is crashing!
Image Source: https://juliesterling.wordpress.com/...beer-exchange/

(I cheated on those last three photos, because I was too busy enjoying a drink and forgot to take pictures of my own)

Kalamazoo Late-Night Food Truck Rally



The Food Truck Rally usually starts at 9:00pm and runs until midnight. It currently occurs five times each year, starting with the April one and ending with one in October. It usually hosts 10-12 food trucks, but as the event grows more popular, I hope they add more trucks. This event had the following trucks: Weller BBQ, Curry in a Hurry, Ol' Moose BBQ, Lazy Man BBQ, Gorilla Gourmet, Singh Cruisin Cuisine, Coffee Rescue, Bomba's, The Mak Bar, and Nick's Gyros. The pop-up event was started by a Food Truck Entrepreneur Committee, as part of larger placemaking initiatives in the city.

The event was held on Water Street, underneath a parking structure that goes over the road.




Gorilla Gourmet


Ol' Moose BBQ


Promotional Sign

Thanks for stopping by.
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Old Posted Apr 10, 2017, 1:13 AM
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Wow! K-zoo has really come a long way over the past ten years or so (since the days when i frequented it often) so has WMU from what i can see, Kalamazoo is finally embracing it full potential as a college town and seems to be gaining many of the ancillary benefits. I know there's more to The Zoo than just the schools there as well but it seems WMU's status has increased its gone hand in hand with this current resurgence.
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Old Posted Apr 11, 2017, 3:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Docta_Love View Post
Wow! K-zoo has really come a long way over the past ten years or so (since the days when i frequented it often) so has WMU from what i can see, Kalamazoo is finally embracing it full potential as a college town and seems to be gaining many of the ancillary benefits. I know there's more to The Zoo than just the schools there as well but it seems WMU's status has increased its gone hand in hand with this current resurgence.
For sure WMU has had a lot to do with it - the hospitals and medical industry too. Kalamazoo still has its fair share of large challenges - above average crime and poverty rates come to mind - but there is a lot in the works to continue combatting that. The city is also currently in the process of updating its master plan and vision for 2025. In fact, tomorrow and Wednesday all-day there will be a community design workshop focusing on the downtown area. This will wrap up the community input portion of the master planning process, but neighborhood meetings have been happening all through the winter. I'm taking time off from work to attend both days.
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Old Posted Apr 13, 2017, 7:10 PM
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Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 (IK2025) - Downtown Design Charrette

The City of Kalamazoo keeps gaining momentum - the city just held a 2-day workshop on April 11-12 to generate ideas and gather community feedback about revisioning the entire downtown. This event was just one part of a much larger undertaking to update the entire city masterplan, which is meant to guide development through 2025 and beyond. The draft masterplan should be ready for review in June sometime. The city preceded this large event with a series of smaller, neighborhood-oriented meetings that occurred throughout the winter. Input from more than 3,000 residents was gathered at these meetings.

I had the opportunity to participate in this 2-day charrette as a volunteer designer, along with 30-40 other volunteers in various design professions (architects, engineers, landscape architects, urban planners, city parks & development staff, etc.) It was a wonderful experience to listen to residents' ideas about how to catalyze positive growth in the city.

The process generated a lot of concepts and discussion about what downtown Kalamazoo should and could be. Our team’s particular focus was on ways to improve the Kalamazoo mall. There were 7 or 8 teams that all focused on different areas of downtown.

The next steps that the city will take include reviewing all of the community feedback gathered last night and at all of the previous neighborhood meetings. Their goal is to develop a full draft of a masterplan in the coming months, to be reviewed by the city commission beginning in June, before being approved for implementation.

There are some great people on staff at the city and at Downtown Kalamazoo Inc. who are dedicated to working on ways to implement the ideas that are being gathered. The city has been very successful in its effort to engage residents and invite them to participate in a variety of different media, including a very comprehensive and understandable website outlining the process. The city has also done a good job conveying its commitment to actually act upon the strategic visions that are outlined.

Screenshots from the Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 website, explaining the process.






Gibbs Planning Group has been contracted by the city to conduct an economic feasibility study and market analysis in tandem with development of the master plan. This consulting firm is based out of Birmingham, Michigan, and is a nationally-recognized leader in the field of commercial real estate consulting and urban planning. Their client list is quite long. In Michigan alone, it looks like they have done consulting work in 50+ communities, including Ann Arbor, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Canton, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Novi, Rochester Hills, Southfield, Warren....

I learned a lot of neat things about what is already in the planning stages for some of Kalamazoo’s public spaces. If you want to read more about the process, below are two articles from MLive, from each of the two days.

From last night, 4/12

Kalamazoo mayor wants big dreams to transform community spaces

and From Tuesday night, 4/11

Kalamazoo master plan carries optimistic expectations of community

Finally, below are a bunch of the photos that I took of the event that you can scroll through, just to get a sense of the creative juices that are flowing. A couple of the sketches are my own - I won't say which.

































































The Mayor, Bobby Hopewell, talks about planning and dreaming the future, Wednesday night, April 12.


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Old Posted Apr 14, 2017, 4:19 AM
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Site Prep is Underway for Two Largest Developments in Kalamazoo Area

As of today, site prep is officially underway in Kalamazoo and in Portage for what will become the two largest developments happening currently in each respective city (combined construction cost of $180+ million).

In downtown Kalamazoo, site barriers and fencing are being installed around the site of the proposed Exchange Building, at the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Rose Street. The proposal calls for a 15-story mixed-use highrise, with commercial and residential occupancies. Construction cost is estimated at $53 million. The last time a structure this tall was erected in Kalamazoo was in 1984 (Washington Square Co-op, at 14 stories). This is huge development for the city.


Image Source: PlazaCorp



That entire void between the two buildings, which is right now a surface parking lot, will be filled. I have posted several more photos on the actual thread for this building, which you can link to here.

And in Portage, site clearing has begun for what will become the new Stryker Corporate headquarters, estimated project cost of $130 million. I will try to get photos of the site at some point. In the meantime, below is a rendering of the proposed building that will anchor the 288 acre development bounded by Milham Avenue, Portage Road, Ramona Avenue, and Lovers Lane.


Image Source: MLive
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Old Posted Apr 14, 2017, 4:44 AM
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They spend time at a community design meeting so they can pat themselves on the back and yet approve construction of projects that are the very antithesis of good urban planning. All that feedback is pointless, we already know what good urban planning looks like. Who is panhandling in Kalamazoo? What does "grocery store" mean? how is that a weakness?
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Downtown hotel, jobs could follow $3M sale of Kalamazoo parking ramp

The good news keeps coming out of Kalamazoo! It's getting hard to keep up with all of the development news.


Image: The underutilized Kalamazoo Arcadia Parking Ramp No. 4 is up for sale, to catalyze new development in the Arcadia Commons West area.



Quote:
Downtown hotel, jobs could follow $3M sale of Kalamazoo parking ramp
By Malachi Barrett, via MLive.
April 13, 2017

KALAMAZOO, MI -- A potential $3-million deal to sell an underused Kalamazoo-owned parking ramp to PlazaCorp is the latest in a series of land moves to develop the northwest section of the city's downtown. 

The agreement follows months of negotiation with WM Acquisitions LLC, an affiliate of PlazaCorp Realty Advisors, Inc., and is part of larger plans to complement a new hotel in Arcadia Commons West. The sale would include Arcadia Parking Ramp No. 4 at 320 N. Rose St., which contains 566 parking spaces, and all equipment used to make the ramp fully operational.
Link to the full article here


Image: The Rose Street Market Building (Former Masonic Temple), at 303 N. Rose Street. There are plans in the works to convert this into a 118 room boutique hotel. A small parking garage behind this building may be demolished for a new addition to accompany the hotel development.


Image: Arcadia Creek, near the Rose Street Market Building and Arcadia Parking Ramp No. 4.

Images Source: Mlive

Last edited by deja vu; Apr 14, 2017 at 5:24 AM.
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Old Posted Apr 14, 2017, 5:41 AM
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They spend time at a community design meeting so they can pat themselves on the back and yet approve construction of projects that are the very antithesis of good urban planning. All that feedback is pointless, we already know what good urban planning looks like. Who is panhandling in Kalamazoo? What does "grocery store" mean? how is that a weakness?
I think whoever wrote 'grocery store' must have meant that the 'lack of' grocery stores in the downtown area is a weakness. Panhandling is a hot topic in the city; it is discussed frequently, but not easily resolved. I'm often asked if I can spare some change by people who may or may not be homeless. The poverty rate in the city is hovering around 40%, about double the state average.

Are you referring to any projects in particular that are the antithesis of good urban planning? (genuinely curious)
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Old Posted Apr 14, 2017, 3:15 PM
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Family Health Center Nears Completion

The new Family Health Center on East Alcott Street is nearly finished. There is an open house on April 20th. I like this project mostly because it is development on a brownfield site. I'm not sure what I think about the architecture of it -

Here is photo of the building, featured in an Mive article. There are more images there.


Photo credit goes to Rick Chambers & Associates LLC.
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Old Posted Apr 14, 2017, 3:17 PM
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I think whoever wrote 'grocery store' must have meant that the 'lack of' grocery stores in the downtown area is a weakness. Panhandling is a hot topic in the city; it is discussed frequently, but not easily resolved. I'm often asked if I can spare some change by people who may or may not be homeless. The poverty rate in the city is hovering around 40%, about double the state average.

Are you referring to any projects in particular that are the antithesis of good urban planning? (genuinely curious)
I'm mostly referring to the development you posted with the giant parking podium, it's awful.

If the city wants a vibrant urban core it's gonna have to get a lot more serious than these aesthetic master plans that just end up looking cheap and gimmicky, although trees are important and should line as many streets as possible. How is public transit in the city? They should be focused on adding bus lines, what about biking infrastructure? The city should build some dedicated bike lanes. Universities and colleges should have campuses or a basic presence in the city center, start with community colleges in the area, this would be a double win with the Kalamazoo promise. Incentivize any new companies or growing companies to build their offices in the city center and build them near transit stops so they won't need as much parking. The city should push developers to build underground parking or at least provide better design alternatives like hiding parking in the back of a development. I feel like the city is trying to be Royal Oak 2.0 and failing at it.
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