A celebration of neighborhood beautification and more

Three years ago, a cluster of abandoned homes in the 700 block of Willard Street threatened the otherwise stable residential block.

The Kalamazoo County Land Bank Authority, in cooperation with Willard residents, worked in 2011 to acquire several properties on the block where crime and nuisance activities were taking place. "Research shows, abandoned homes can decrease property values by as much as 10 percent for adjacent homes. This block represents an enormous effort to reclaim a significant  amount of abandonment so that residents could enjoy their street and surrounding assets," says Kalamazoo County Treasurer and Land Bank Board Chair Mary Balkema.

So two five star energy efficient new homes built in a style that compliments the surrounding area replaced the abandoned homes and are now occupied by new homeowners.

The following year, Willard Street residents got together with the Kalamazoo County Drain Commissioner, the Land Bank Authority, OCBA Landscape Architects and Naylor Landscaping to install two rain gardens in the existing green spaces between the sidewalk and Willard Street. Created with funding from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, these rain gardens complement the two residential rain gardens that were installed on Willard located at the two new homes on the block developed by the Kalamazoo County Land Bank.

"The residents on Willard Street had shared an interest in sustainability and beautification, this partnership was a great way to work together to support these interests," says Kelly Clarke, Executive Director of the Land Bank.

EPA studies show that up to 70 percent of all water pollution is caused by stormwater runoff carrying sediment, oils, salt, bacteria, trash, and heat. The solution to stormwater pollution is achieved by immediately capturing, filtering, cleaning and storing runoff as close as possible to where rain falls, as it is in a rain garden. The Willard Street garden is a shallow surface depression planted with specifically selected native vegetation to capture and clean storm water. Tall Corepsis, New England Aster, Prairie Blazing Star, Lucerne Blue Eyed Grass and Prairie Dock are just a few of the plants used in these rain gardens.

To recognize that effort Willard Neighborhood residents and partners will dedicate four rain gardens, and the two homes, on the 700 block of Willard Street at 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2.

"This will be a celebration of neighborhood beautification, environmental improvement, and economic development," says Kalamazoo County Drain Commissioner Pat Crowley.

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Natalie Youakim, Kalamazoo County Land Bank Authority

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.