Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's series on solutions to affordable housing and housing the unhoused. It is made possible by a coalition of funders including the City of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, the ENNA Foundation, and LISC.
Affordable housing advocates continue to lay the groundwork to redevelop part of a 4-acre site in Kalamazoo's Edison Neighborhood into 36 apartments for working people.
The LIFT Foundation of Kalamazoo
is working with the City of Kalamazoo and others to clear regulatory hurdles that will allow the nonprofit to convert property adjacent to 205 and 209 E. Stockbridge Ave. into the site of a four-story apartment building with ground-level commercial space.
“We are finishing up site plan approval with the City of Kalamazoo and MSHDA (the Michigan State Housing Development Authority),” says Lisa Willcutt, principal of Lockhart Management & Consultanting LLC, a real estate consulting and property-management firm that does development work for the LIFT Foundation of Kalamazoo.
Lisa Willcutt is principal with Lockhart Management &. Consulting LLC.
MSHDA is updating the rules for organizations applying for low-income housing tax credits. The $18 million Hawthorne Park project, which will need funding from various sources, cannot move forward without the tax credits. During the change in the rules process, the deadline for applications for the credits has been pushed back to Dec. 1 of this year, but approvals will not be announced before April 1 of next year.
“We’re working on it,” Willcutt says. “There are a lot of parts and pieces to this application. I’m working right now on some funding and additional funding applications.”
The Hawthorne Park building is expected to be 52,523 square feet in total with 2,935 square feet of commercial space. Those working on the project hope the space will attract entrepreneurial businesses such as a coffee shop.
Hawthorne Park will include one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments as well as a playground, a fitness center, a computer lab/business center, a community gathering space, a walking path through the adjacent property, and interior bicycle storage.
“Because we understand from people who are trying to find housing -- working with organizations like Housing Resources Inc. and Integrated Services of Kalamazoo -- we put some three-bedroom (units) in too,” Wilcutt says.
There still are a lot of details to work out before the development can begin construction.
This image provides a bird’s eye view of the 200 block of Stockbridge Avenue as it is presently. The white square and bottom left is a Dollar General store. The white rectangle to the right the City of Kalamazoo property that runs north of its Stockb
David Artley, president of Kalamazoo County Housing Choices, a nonprofit that works to facilitate housing for chronically homeless individuals and owns the land on which Hawthorne Park is to be built, says, “There’s a whole lot of things that they’ve got to go through permit-wise, working with the State of Michigan and working with the City of Kalamazoo to get permission to do the project on that site.”
Although completion of the project is a long way off, Artley says he is excited to see more workforce development housing “for people that might not ordinarily have access to safe, affordable, adequate housing.”
“People who want to work and have a place to call home, sometimes can’t afford it,” Artley explains. “So the issue is to provide them a place where they can live.”
The Hawthorne Park property has 13 parcels of land on 4 acres between Stockbridge Avenue and Lake Street. That includes some houses that face Lake Street and that are still being rented, as well as vacant land where houses were demolished long ago.
Hawthorne Park, which takes it name from the Hawthorne trees that grow in areas near Portage Creek, is to be built on the north side of Stockbridge, just east of a Dollar General store, and a short distance west of the City of Kalamazoo’s Stockbridge Facility.
Tenants of Hawthorne Park apartments are expected to be individuals and families whose annual incomes qualify them at less than 30, 40 or 60 percent of Kalamazoo County’s Area Median Income, the midpoint of the incomes of families and individuals in the region. The AMI for a household with one individual in Kalamazoo County is about $55,000. It is about $79,000 for a family of four.
The planned Hawthorne Park apartment building( brown at center) can be seen with an adjacent parking area (in gray) in the 200 block of Stockbridge Avenue.
Artley says those who may find homes in the new apartments “could be families where mom and dad both work. It could be single-parent families where there’s a mom and a child and mom works. But the amount of her income does not necessarily allow them to get that (adequate) housing so there’s some things that have to be worked out with the state.”
After 30 years of work with Kalamazoo County, Artley retired in 2013 and became chairman of the Kalamazoo County Public Housing Commission. He left the commission about two years ago and is now focused on projects being done by the Kalamazoo Family Nonprofit Housing Corp. and Kalamazoo County Housing Choices.
Housing Choices is a 15-year-old nonprofit organization that is set to hold the Stockbridge Avenue property until LIFT and its partners move ahead with the new apartment project, “and then we will work with them to get funding to build the project,” Artley says. “All we’re really doing right now is paying the taxes when they come due, paying for the insurance, and simply waiting for all of the various approvals that have to come through to do a project like that.”
Who else is working on the apartments?
Lockhart Management & Consultanting manages several housing developments in Greater Kalamazoo, including Interfaith Homes, New Village Park, Heather Gardens, Azure Gardens, and The LodgeHouse, the conversion of the old Knight’s Inn motel on South Westnedge Avenue into 60 subsidized studio apartments intended to help income-qualified people transition from homeless to more permanent housing. It opened in October of 2022.
LIFT Foundation is a Kalamazoo-based nonprofit housing corporation that was started in 1966 to obtain federal funding focused on giving people with low incomes, the elderly, and/or people with disabilities access to affordable housing. It builds, preserves, operates, and manages those properties. It will ultimately become a partner in a Limited Dividend Housing Association that owns Hawthorne Park, Its partner in that association will be Brinshore Development LLC, an Evanston. Ill.-based company. According to information posted by the company online, Brinshore Development has been involved with about 10,000 affordable rental housing units in 15 states.
Willcutt, of Lockhart Management & Consulting, says the project will provide nice apartments with modern amenities for local residents. Her organization will not have leasing rates until a new market study is completed, and it will not develop a list of prospective renters before May of 2024.
Hawthorne Park will be a 52,500-square-foot building that includes 36 apartment units and ground-floor commercial space
Willcutt says the project serves a need in the community and it will increase housing choice.
“Any amount of housing that can be created for this community will help get to the goal of filling the need that the county has identified in their housing plan,” she says.
A report by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research indicates that Kalamazoo County needs about 7,800 additional housing units by the year 2030 to meet future demand.
“It serves a need that the community has and it increases choice,” Willcutt says. “It increases choice for individuals and families with a low income. And that’s what we really want – to provide choice to people.”