Multiple mixed-use developments on the horizon in downtown Kalamazoo

Somewhere “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” or so the famed Joni Mitchell song goes. In Kalamazoo, meanwhile, the opposite is in the works. 

City officials are finalizing a deal with Catalyst Development., LLC, that will transform a downtown parking lot into a $70 million, seven-story mixed-use building in the heart of downtown. 
One of two major mixed-use projects slated for downtown, along with The Exchange (more on that project below), the 290,000 square-foot development is expected to break ground this July with an anticipated completion date in 2020. It will be located at the southwest corner of North Edwards and Water Streets, overlooking Arcadia Festival Place and neighboring The Radisson Plaza Hotel and the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange.  
The development will house two floors of residential housing, four floors of office space, and a 300-plus-space parking deck, according to an April news release issued by Catalyst. Tenants will include the new headquarters for The Kalamazoo Promise Institute, a regional office for educational partner Communities in Schools, Inc., headquarters for the legal firm Warner, Norcross and Judd, and headquarters for Southwest Michigan First
Von Washington Jr., executive director of community relations for the Kalamazoo Promise, says that the new space will not only be more accessible to students and community members but allow for the organization to expand from six full-time employees to upward of 20. 
“In the first 12 years, the Kalamazoo Promise has spent over $100 million in helping 6,000 Promise-eligible students, but a lot of the focus has been on getting the scholarship up and running,” Washington says. “We now know that there are many other barriers that can stop students from pursuing their educational dreams, so as an organization we want to alleviate that and be part of the community strategy to alleviate some of those barriers.
“What we did not have before was a place where students could engage. We are looking to create a hub where students can come together to study and brainstorm and where we can interact with various organizations throughout the community to help those students be as successful as possible.”
Having a partner in Communities in Schools that is focused on addressing the drop-out crisis in schools across the country located next door, Washington hopes will help to eliminate some of those very barriers he mentions.
“Catalyst has been working for over two years to meet the programming needs of these collaborative organizations, while simultaneously searching for design and application strategies that will enhance our downtown business district,” says Bill Johnston, owner of Catalyst Development. “Collaboration, connectedness, and community are all important elements of what this project brings.”
The community element does not stop on the educational and economic fronts with the development as in addition to high-end luxury apartments, 10 percent of the residential units in the building will be set aside for those in lower income brackets. 

“This is the type of thoughtful development that we want to continue to see, not just downtown, but throughout the city,” says Mayor Bobby Hopewell. 

 The Exchange
Another downtown fixture on the horizon in downtown Kalamazoo is The Exchange Building, which after six years of planning broke ground in April 2017. With completion estimated for early summer 2019, the centrally-located property will be home to 345,000 square feet of mixed-use space, 60,000 of which will be commercial.
The 15-story, $52.4 million project at the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Rose Street will be anchored by Chemical Bank. More retail tenants are expected to be announced soon and according to Andy Wenzel, PlazaCorp executive vice president and director of acquisitions, development, and leasing, there is limited retail and office space still available.
In addition to the commercial front, the building will house 133 luxury studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments, a rooftop terrace, 289 private, covered parking spaces, an on-site fitness center and more.
“(It’s) a truly transformational project in the heart of our community,” Wenzel says. “The location provides simply awesome views … and the convenience of being located at the most central point of our downtown.” 
Phoenix Properties is taking deposits now for the residential units, and according to Wenzel, many deposits have already been accepted, and a number of units with sweeping, panoramic views of the city remain available.
“This project brings a major investment to our community, new jobs, and the first new urban multi-story mixed-use design building of its kind in Kalamazoo,” Wenzel adds. “(We hope) this project as well as the many others that PlazaCorp is bringing to Kalamazoo, will attract and retain people of all ages and add to the vibrancy of our community.”
The 40-acre retail development — located adjacent to U.S. 131 and Stadium Drive and anchored by Costco — will have two new buildings ready for tenant-build-out this summer. Located adjacent to Trader Joe’s and filling 20,000 square feet of new retail space now under construction will be Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt and the Drake Tap House
The Drake Tap House will be owned and operated by Kalamazoo’s Millennium Restaurant Group and be the fourth of its kind; joining the Central City Tap House downtown, The Sprinkle Road Tap House, and the Centre Street Tap House in Portage. The tavern/restaurant will serve a variety of Michigan craft beers and gourmet burgers, entrées and appetizers. 
Menchie’s, an international yogurt chain, has 18 stores in Michigan, with another three on the way, including the Kalamazoo locale. The Corner@Drake shop will join Holland and Lansing as the only Michigan stores west of Ann Arbor. 
“The vision for this project has been to create a new gateway and destination for the Kalamazoo region,” says Curt Aardema, director of development for the AVB, the commercial development firm that manages the shopping center. “In doing so, we hope to provide the community with not only a distinct collection of restaurants and retailers but also a set of landmark buildings that can serve as a point of pride.”
In addition to what is already under construction, Aardema says, there are plans for “the potential of two (more) freestanding restaurant buildings.”
Ryan Boldrey is a freelance journalist and editor living in Kalamazoo. A Michigan native, he returned to his home state in 2016 after spending the better part of a decade working as a writer and editor in Colorado. He spends much of his time traveling to see live music and is an avid Michigan State and Detroit sports fan.