A Way Home — Housing Solutions: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's series on solutions to homelessness and ways to increase affordable housing. It is made possible by a coalition of funders including the City of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, the ENNA Foundation, Kalamazoo County Land Bank, and LISC.
Look for the Abbey42 apartment complex to open in Kalamazoo County late next year.
“We are full speed ahead and my guess is, I think we’re going to try to have units open by the fourth quarter of 2023,” says Scott Knowlton, partner, vice president and counsel for Grand Haven-based residential developer Westwind Construction.
The project, a $64.6 million, multi-family housing development that has been in the works in Pavilion Township since 2018, includes the construction of 11 buildings with a total of 344 living units.
It will put to use the southernmost portion of a 195-acre property at 5283 East O Ave, located east of Sprinkle Road and bordering the City of Portage. Plans are being considered separately to develop the northern portion of the property for commercial and/or industrial uses.
This is an artist's rendering of the front of the community center proposed for the new Abbey42 residential complex in Pavilion Township.
The property being converted was for decades the Abbey Family Farm. One of its inheritors dedicated the property to the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. The foundation marketed the property for years but never found a proper user.
“We stepped in and had a bunch of great meetings with them,” Knowlton says. “We proved that we’re worth it and ultimately they agreed to sell the property to us so we can get developments going on it. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Westwind is operating as an affiliate of Abbey Farm Development Co. LLC.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” says Kalamazoo County Housing Director Mary Balkema.
Abbey42 is one of several housing projects that received some of the more than $7.1 million in support during the first round of funding from Kalamazoo County’s new property tax millage. The millage is intended to support projects that address a critical shortage in housing.
For any of the projects, the millage funding is considered the last money involved, Balkema says. That is, it has been awarded to projects that already have primary funding sources and needed further funds to proceed.
This is an artist's rendering of the pool that is to be built at the community center in the Abbey42 apartment complex.
Each building in Abbey42 will have 24 to 30 units. And each will include one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, with the larger buildings also having some studio apartments. Together they are expected to have the potential to house up to 1,232 individuals, starting at rental rates affordable for those earning 30 percent of the area median income.
“It’s on property that they had already acquired from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation,” Balkema says of Westwind and theAbbey42 project. “I’m really looking forward to that one. We had worked to put $936,000 into it. And that’s leveraging up and outside money of $64 million. That is a big deal.”
Westwind Construction is a builder of multi-family housing (market-rate and affordable) throughout the Midwest. It is part of a family-owned business (the Gregory and Peter Oleszczuk family) that has been involved in home construction since 1982. It points to Ridge45 in Traverse City as a development that is comparable to what it plans to build here.
Ridge45 is a community of one-to-three-bedroom apartments that opened in stages starting in 2016. It includes 16 buildings with a total of 400 apartment units at range in size from 641- to 803-square feet. The development has such amenities as a fitness center, a playground, an outdoor swimming pool, a year-round hot tub, a community center and a dog park.
Of Abbey42, Knowlton says, “We’re going to have a really awesome community center with a pool, a fitness center, and various community gardens and all kinds of amenities for our residents.”
This schematic shows the 11 buildings that will make up the Abbey42 apartment complex off O Avenue in Pavilion Township.
In Pavilion Township, Westwind is presently doing land grading and is working on infrastructure for the new residential complex.
“We’re going to have footings and foundations in, definitely within the next two months,” Knowlton says.
Although there are still problems in the construction industry securing building materials and workers, he says, “We build a lot of homes for people and it’s a tough time right now. But we’re making our way through.”
Why should people be excited about the project?
“I would say it’s going to be first-class residences with first-class amenities, with a level of construction that they haven’t seen in a long time,” Knowlton says. “We’re dedicated to quality and I think that people are really going to be shocked by how well we build things.
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