Love for old buildings turns corner of West Michigan and the mall into residential, retail space

A large portion of the Peregrine 100 development is only a handful of months away from taking flight.

In the former PNC Bank building on the corner of West Michigan Avenue and the Kalamazoo Mall in the heart of the city’s downtown, Phase 1 of the new, nearly $5 million residential and commercial redevelopment, is set to be completed in January, says Tom Huff, owner of Peregrine Realty.

A dozen luxury units will comprise the residential side of the first phase of completion, with units ranging in size from one-bedroom 862-square-feet units up to two-bedroom, nearly 1,700-square-feet units. Two penthouse-style, two-story units comprise that total, with all units having access to a rooftop deck. 

Nearly 8,000 square feet of space in the building’s large, vaulted lobby will house either a commercial tenant in an open-office style environment, or an “Eataly”-style upscale food court and marketplace experience, which could include a fishmonger, bakery, deli and other prepared-foods counters, Huff says. He has been in talks with an interested party to house the space, which is also expected to open early next year.

The residential units will be chock-full of amenities, with few comforts spared. All will come with Cambria quartz countertops, wood floors, stainless steel high-efficiency appliances, LED lighting and floor-to-ceiling windows. An indoor parking garage with up to 20 spaces will be located on the ground floor.

Running along the west and south sides of the building, Phase 2 of the development will include a handful of large units featuring 40-foot ceilings, with large windows making up most of the exterior walls and loft space for an extra bedroom.

“They will be very dramatic units,” Huff says. That phase is scheduled to be completed in June.

Huff, a native of Kalamazoo who is also a lawyer, is something of a local mogul in the local commercial and residential redevelopment market in the city’s center. From the seventh floor of the Peregrine Tower, and wearing a dress shirt with his initials – “THH” – embroidered on his cuffs, he peers out of large windows, looking north onto a city he is helping to change.

A compact telescope stands near his desk, so he can check-in with the family of Peregrine falcons which nest on the 13th floor of the Fifth Third Bank building.

When asked why he is so bullish on the development of Kalamazoo’s downtown, Huff is quick to define his passion for the city.

“I’m not bullish, I’m committed,” he says. “The old PNC building is one of the best locations in the city. I love these old buildings. I love keeping them alive.”

Huff purchased the four-story, 46,000 square foot building, in the fall of 2014. The building is actually a combination of three structures and was originally the home of First National Bank of Kalamazoo, chartered in 1863.
The PNC building is one of 15 that Peregrine Realty owns, 10 of which have a residential component. All told, the firm boasts 74 housing units.

Recent additions to Huff’s total include the $2.4 million Peregrine Plaza, adjacent to the tower on the corner of the Kalamazoo Mall and South Street. It houses the Kalamazoo Gazette’s “news hub” on the ground level and 16 residential units on the top floors.

There could be more properties added to that list in the near future.

Natalie Valentine, president of the Peregrine Realty and Huff’s daughter, says the company is looking into developing 30 additional residential units on the upper floors of the old International Hotel, which now houses several retailers on the ground level, including Fandango, Terrapin Worldwide Imports and Urban hair salon. Work on that project should start sometime next year, she says.

The company is also considering adding floors to the building in the area behind Fandango. That portion of the building is currently one floor, housing a tailor shop, hair salon, and art supply store. Once completed, an estimated 8,000 square feet of space would be available for a commercial tenant, Huff says, and would include green space, fountains and potential food vendors.

“We are creating an actual neighborhood in the city center,” Valentine says. “People want to live downtown and walk to work, the theater, the bar. They want a neighborhood to live in. Our developments help create that symbiotic relationship with other businesses in the downtown.”  

On Thursday morning, Valentine carefully makes her way through a forest of metal wall framing, nearly ready for drywall, and past workers engaged in all sorts of prep and construction work. With the firm set to accept rental applications in the next month or so, work is fast-paced.

Both Huff and Valentine say there is more demand than supply in the city’s downtown residential market, with Valentine acknowledging that once most of the downtown’s old buildings have been redeveloped, the only way to satisfy that demand is to build up—new, high-rise buildings to accommodate the market.

The only thing that could stop the pace of downtown redevelopment is an unforeseen crash of the economy, she says. 

She remembers being a young girl, when Huff had just started his real estate holdings, and heading out to some of her father’s buildings during the winter to shovel snow off the roofs.

“A lot of them had leaky roofs,” she says. “We were just starting out. It was basically just office tenants. Nobody really lived downtown. But now, everything has changed.

Chris Killian has been a writer and journalist in the Kalamazoo area for over 10 years. His work has been published in multiple local publications, including the Kalamazoo Gazette and WMUK. You can find more about Killian, his work, and projects he’s working on by visiting chriskillian.net.

Construction photos by Chris Killian. Other photos courtesy of Peregrine Realty
 
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