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  #461  
Old Posted Jun 29, 2019, 10:37 PM
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Does Free College Work? Kalamazoo Offers Some Answers
Jun 28, 2019 at 6:05 AM by Michelle Hackman

Thirteen years after Kalamazoo’s program went into effect, some results are in. College enrollment has risen. Kalamazoo’s economy is stronger.
Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/does-fr...rs-11561741553
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  #462  
Old Posted Jul 9, 2019, 12:36 PM
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^ The Promise has definitely helped this area, especially since they have opened up the tuition reimbursement to be for any higher education school in the state, public or private. Some of my friends have children who constitute the first "graduating" class of this program - in other words, they have gone through all 12 - 13 years in the program and now in their 1st or 2nd year of free college. It seems to have worked well for them, freeing up funds for other things like debt reduction, home investments, vacations, retirement, etc.

But the K-12 system their kids had to go through is definitely not the best, especially the high school program, which still has higher-than-usual instances of truancy, violence, drop-outs, student homelessness, etc. School Choice helps, because folks can pick and choose which school buildings their child(ren) attend(s) within the district, for the most part. But you basically only have two high schools to choose from, and both have been riddled with challenges. The Promise is great, and it definitely attracts and retains people, but it is not a magic button for curing other systemic issues within the district and the city. The more rural districts that surround Kzoo (in particular Portage, Mattawan, and Gull Lake) are all very highly ranked districts in the state, and they compete with each other for families, students, funding, etc. who may otherwise be attracted back to the urban core. These districts tend to be building and refurbishing facilities at a much quicker rate than Kzoo.

Anyway, interesting article. And some quick updates from Friday.

Rose Street Market / Future Hilton Garden Inn - still not much to see, but a perimeter fence is up. I want to find out what the timeline for this redevelopment is, and especially for the adjacent Home 2 Suites, proposed at 8 stories (which would go right in the area that the fence encloses)


100 E Water St / Catalyst






Bronson Cancer Pavilion - foundations and below-grade work moving along.


Bronson Labs Building, aka 400 John St - I like the way this is turning out. Since we haven't seen a public rendering yet, it's been a bit of an unfolding surprise. Judging by that cornice line, they are going for a more traditional style to blend with the downtown mall architecture on the public side.


(from behind)


Masonry brick face going up at 400 Rose. It looks like a thin brick product, but still true masonry / joinery. Still impressed with the speed of this development.








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  #463  
Old Posted Jul 23, 2019, 1:31 PM
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Just a few quick shots of 100 E Water St, which is really starting to feel big. And one shot - of a new project - that involves fitting out the upper two floors of the Jim Gilmore Building with new apartments.











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  #464  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2019, 3:09 PM
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WMU's new south neighborhood dorm centerpiece is coming along. True to one of the stated goals of this campus re-imagining, the structure will have quite a presence from Stadium Drive. The steel frame seen below is roughly 1/2 of the building - there will be a second wing adjacent to the first (left of the current portion, relative to the drive-by perspectives below). Counting the bottom, semi-basement level, this is a 7-story dorm.



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  #465  
Old Posted Jul 27, 2019, 2:59 AM
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Some encouraging news - Portage is considering the logistics that would accompany creating a real downtown, which it lacks. It would be driven by rezoning efforts to increase density and building height limits, particularly along the heavy commercial corridor of S. Westnedge Ave. I've dreamed of this.

Quote:
Forward Focus: Portage community leaders say downtown concept could become a reality
Kirk Mason | WWMT Newschannel 3
July 24, 2019

...The city does not have a downtown. A downtown could be home to mixed-use buildings, that include both businesses and apartments where people live. For this type of change to happen, zoning would have to change in the city, which would need city council approval. It is a concept that...could become a reality sooner than many may think, perhaps within the next 2 years...A re-zoned Portage could allow for more housing that would reach higher into the sky, with more floors...
I doubt 2 years, but I would love to be proven wrong...

And south of Portage, in Vicksburg, big news for the Vicksburg Mill redevelopment. The MEDC just approved a huge brownfield redevelopment package to help fund the work, to the tune of $30 million in tax captures and benefits. So stuff might start picking up steam there.

Quote:
Redevelopment project approved for abandoned Vicksburg mill
Heidi Paxson | WWMT Newschannel 3
July 23, 2019

...The Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) approved a the Transformational Brownfield Plan that authorizes several sources of tax capture in support of the project. The entire package is valued at $30 million. MEDC officials said the Transformational Brownfield Plan program supported the project in an effort to attract businesses, developers and residents to Michigan. Incentives for the project were based on an independent, third-party analysis conducted by the University of Michigan Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics and W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Based on the findings, the MSF board approved the $30 million, multilayered incentive package that includes...
The story comes with some updated renderings I have not seen yet. Preliminary work has been ongoing for some time to stabilize, secure, and weather-proof the property, while major funding is secured. Vicksburg is really bucking the trend when it comes to finding new uses for these historic paper mills that once dominated the landscape throughout Kalamazoo and Allegan Counties. Apart from Plainwell, all of the other major mills have been demolished (most recently, Rock Ten Mill in Otsego bit the dust) or remain abandoned (Parchment Mill).








Source: WWMT
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  #466  
Old Posted Aug 1, 2019, 5:11 PM
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Some good news, and some bad news. First, the bad - another historic church structure bites the dust downtown. This is (now, was) a beautiful building. A lot of irony that the arts institute is the one responsible for obliterating it. It was pretty much a given that it would come down, after the city voted in April to block their own historic preservation commission from trying to save it (by making Bronson Park a local historic district). With progress comes destruction, and here's hoping that something meaningful can at least replace it in the near future (and not just another green space / parking lot).

Quote:
Kalamazoo Institute of Art demolishes 106-year old Church of Christ, Scientist building
Jake Berent | WWMT Newschannel 3
July 31, 2019

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Work began Wednesday, July 31, 2019, to demolish the 106-year old Church of Christ, Scientist building in downtown Kalamazoo. The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts owns the building and land and plans to turn the land into green space while they look at permanent options for the space.











Images Source: WWMT | Jake Berent

Now, the better news - just a stone's throw away from the church demo, the first (and anchor) tenant, Chemical Bank, has opened its doors in The Exchange.

Quote:
First tenant opens the doors for business in the Kalamazoo Exchange Building
Callie Rainey | WWMT Newschannel 3
July 31, 2019

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Chemical Bank was the first tenant to open it's doors in the Kalamazoo Exchange Building on July 31, 2019, but there was still construction left to be done. Many people said they're excited the long-awaited project is almost complete. Since 1993, Kathy Beebe has been baking treats and pouring lattes along the Kalamazoo Mall at Cafe Casa. She said construction has always been a part of the area but she remains positive because of what it means for the future...
Apparently, the first residential tenants are also scheduled to begin move-ins today, while construction wraps up.


Image Source: Facebook | Cailey Rainey

Last edited by deja vu; Aug 2, 2019 at 11:50 AM.
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  #467  
Old Posted Aug 11, 2019, 12:27 PM
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Just a smattering of some local news - much of it transportation and infrastructure related.

1. I-94 will be widened from 2 to 3 lanes in each direction for a remaining portion that runs through Kalamazoo and Portage areas.

Quote:
I-94 in Kalamazoo and Portage to widen from 4 lanes to 6
Lauren Edwards | Fox 17 News
August 2, 2019

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Transportation has announced plans to widen the section of I-94 that runs through Kalamazoo and Portage. Specifically, the lanes between Lovers Lane and Sprinkle Road will widen from four lanes to six lanes.

“There are several interchanges in that short span,” said MDOT spokesman Nick Schirripa. “Lots of daily commuters and lots of commercial traffic. People getting on. People getting off in that capacity in that little section.”

Schirripa said the widening project is a part of a MDOT’s 2020-2024 five-year program. The plans have not been finalized yet but they've been a part of discussions for 25 years. Funding has been their biggest hurdle...
2. Kalamazoo-Battle Creek Int'l Airport will receive $1.5 million FAA funding, out of a $34 million improvements package going toward Michigan airports. Airport officials say that they will put this money towards environmental studies to asses the possibility of expanding its primary commercial runway. It's a ways in the future, but this would potentially open up the possibility of larger planes and more destinations for the small local airport. About $11 million is going to its much larger neighbor about 1 hour north, Gerald R. Ford Int'l in Grand Rapids.

Quote:
Federal Aviation Administration awards $34 million for Michigan airport improvements
Genevieve Grippo | WWMT Newschannel 3
July 31, 2019

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday that will award $478 million to 232 airports across the country to be used towards infrastructure improvements and serve as the fourth allotment of the more than $3 billion in Airport Improvement Program funding. The Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International Airport is set to receive $1.54 million of the funding, while the FAA awarded $11 million to the Gerald R. Ford Airport in Grand Rapids...
3. The City of Kalamazoo will host a "Downtown Streets Design Meeting" on August 21. MDOT agreed to transfer certain segments of road to local control earlier this year, including portions of Michigan Avenue, Kalamazoo Avenue, Westnedge Avenue, Park Street, Riverview Drive, and Stadium Drive. This transfer has 'paved the way' for the city to consider how to redesign these streets in ways that align better with safety, connectivity, and transportation goals. Themeeting on 8/21 is intended to kick-off the planning process. It will be held at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts from 6:30 - 8 p.m.

(Source: City of Kalamazoo Development News BUlletin)


4. WMUK issued a short, but thought-provoking, article about the housing situation in SW Michigan, and how construction of new market-rate, or above-market-rate housing, can have a ripple effect on affordable housing. I'm not fully convinced.

Quote:
Can New Housing Construction Create A "Ripple Effect" And More Affordable Housing?
Gordon Evans | WMUK
August 7, 2019

Upjohn Institute for Employment Research Economist Evan Mast says a proposal for a large new apartment or condominium building could cause debate at a city council or a planning commission meeting. He says one argument from opponents may be “These units aren’t going to do anything for our housing problem, these are expensive.” But Mast says his research on housing shows that developments with above average prices can have “ripple effects” that help make housing affordable...
5. The County's new animal shelter is almost complete. This will be a vast improvement from the previous facility. Its opening will hopefully facilitate the adoption process for families, and reduce the number of euthanized pets each year. I was shocked to read for that a region this small, they euthanized more than 1,100 animal in 2018.

Quote:
Kalamazoo County’s $5M animal service facility on track to open this fall
Lindsay Moor | MLive
August 8, 2019

KALAMAZOO, MI -- The county’s construction of a new animal shelter, a $5 million project, is wrapping up. The county will send out an announcement next month for an open house event where the community can tour the new Animal Services facility, County Administrator Tracie Moored said...
6. And, the Montessori School expansion in Kalamazoo is almost complete.

Quote:
Expansion of The Montessori School in Kalamazoo nearly complete
Kayla Miller | MLive
August 8, 2019

KALAMAZOO, MI -- An expansion of The Montessori School in Kalamazoo is nearly complete, and the public is invited to celebrate its grand opening. The Montessori School expanded into an adjacent building because of increasing enrollment and additional program offerings, according to a press release from The Montessori School...
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  #468  
Old Posted Aug 11, 2019, 3:39 PM
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WTF is wrong with Kalamazoo? Do they just hate all old buildings?
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  #469  
Old Posted Aug 13, 2019, 3:17 PM
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Originally Posted by The North One View Post
WTF is wrong with Kalamazoo? Do they just hate all old buildings?
Seems like it, these days.

I read a while ago that Kalamazoo is the smallest city in Michigan with a full-time, fully-staffed Historic Preservation Commission. I don't recall the source, but I think it was credible. But despite continuing to fund this commission, the city commissioners have repeatedly squelched any efforts by these staff to conduct historic surveys and encourage formation of local historic designations, at least in recent memory. Some key examples besides this church are the other church on Bronson Square (302 Academy), the soon-to-be-demolished remainder of the Congregation of St. Joseph Motherhouse and support structures (aka former Nazareth College campus), and the Fountain of the Pioneers. WMU's original East Campus also comes to mind, but the University follows different rules.

It is really disheartening. The ones behind demolishing these structures are institutes of learning, churches, and arts organizations. You'd think all of these groups would be advocates for preserving history. I know that members of the KHPC (Historic Preservation Commission) are disheartened as well; but they are limited in what they can say publicly in opposition to the powers that be. They are fine people who care about the historic urban construct of the city, and they are not on board with the commissioners' decisions. The city commissioners voting to silence their own staff are too cowardly to speak up against any act of destruction that would be misconstrued as too controlling of private or public use of funds.

And it's not even as if these structures are being replaced with higher / better uses. By and large, they are being converted into "green spaces".

Woohoo.
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  #470  
Old Posted Aug 17, 2019, 3:10 PM
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Related to the local widening of I-94 from 4 lanes to 6, MDOT has issued a drawing of the proposed reconstruction of the I-94 / Portage Street interchange. It will drastically change the flow of traffic at this junction, definitely for the better. They are basically going to "Westnedge-ify" this interchange, copying (more or less) what was done at the heavily trafficked Wesdnedge interchange, just one exit further west (Exit #76). Key to the alterations will be dedicated left turn lanes at traffic lights underneath the freeway overpass, thus eliminating some confusing Michigan lefts and complicated signage for getting traffic onto the freeway from Portage and Kilgore. The project will also entail the modification of Kilgore Road and Kilgore Service Road, including the removal of the stretch of Kilgore that currently connects from Portage to the Service Road. It all results in a more functional, more common, and more familiar setup.

This is an exciting, much-needed infrastructure upgrade for this growing area. The project is expected to start in the spring of 2021 and last until the fall of 2022. There's an open house on 8/21. It should be an easy one for MDOT to administer, at least in the sense that their regional office is immediately northwest of the project site, along Kilgore (also shown in the map below).

Quote:
2-year construction project at Portage Street and I-94 interchange to begin in 2021
Andrew Minegar | WWMT Newschannel 3
August 15, 2019

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A major construction project is planned for the Portage Street and Kilgore Road exit on and off Interstate 94, as well as the stretch of freeway from Lover's Lane to Sprinkle Road. The interchange would let traffic headed north and south on Portage Street to get on I-94 with a left turn at a traffic light under the freeway, which is the same configuration used at the Westnedge and I-94 interchange, according to MDOT Spokesman Nick Schirripa...

Source: MDOT
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