Kalamazoo’s 2014 PlacePlan, entitled “Connecting the Dots of Sustainable Mobility, Health, and Wellness,” engaged Kalamazoo Valley Community College and a range of resident, business, and institutional partners to build on the city’s successful farmers market and KVCC’s new healthy living campus as the cornerstones of a healthy and attractive urban neighborhood.

The plan looked at balancing biking, walking, transit, and traffic options in the Edison Neighborhood, and especially at the role of Portage Street as a gateway to the neighborhood and downtown. Additionally, the plan considered the role of the farmers market in the neighborhood, and opportunities to allow further growth of the successful market.

Since report delivery, Kalamazoo has made concrete steps to implement several key aspects of their PlacePlan; as discussed below, their efforts earned the award of a follow-up PlacePlans Implementation Grant in 2015 to support build-out of a commercial prep kitchen that will support food-based business development. The aggressive implementation efforts of the city and its partners will ensure that in years to come, the Farmers Market will indeed be the hub of a district focused on healthy living and food-based entrepreneurship.

Implementation Grant: Prep Kitchen and Fare Games

To support the food-based entrepreneurship opportunities identified during the PlacePlan process, the city and Kalamazoo County Land Bank were awarded a follow-up PlacePlans Implementation Grant in 2015. The grant supported build-out of a prep kitchen in a previously-vacant commercial building owned by the Land Bank at the corner of Portage Street and Washington Avenue, a 5-minute walk from the market site. When complete in early 2016, the kitchen will allow for code-compliant on-site food preparation for small-scale vendors to sell prepared dishes at the nearby market, in food trucks, or at the neighboring Artisan Market–an extension of the Farmers Market focused on arts, crafts, and other handmade goods.

Over the summer of 2016, Kalamazoo is running the Fare Games competition to select tenant for the prep kitchen space. The winning food-based business proposal will receive a reduced initial rent as well as pro bono business services and coaching from the Fare Games sponsors to support their success. The ideal applicant will both bring foot traffic to the Washington Square area with retail or sit-down dining as well as take advantage of proximity to the market by drawing on local suppliers.

Portage Street Trial Road Diet

Moving the stripes on Portage Street keeps vehicles further from pedestrians, as well as adding a left turn lane for safe turning. Both support access to the businesses in the area.

Moving the stripes on Portage Street keeps vehicles further from pedestrians, as well as adding a left turn lane for safe turning. Both support access to the businesses in the area.

The first Key Action Area identified in the PlacePlan related to Portage Street, the “Main Street” of the Edison neighborhood. As in many communities, Portage had been widened and configured to handle four lanes of traffic flowing through the neighborhood, situated between the downtown district and the outlying suburban areas. The PlacePlan, backed by results of a community workshop and study from LSL Planning of Royal Oak, recommended reconfiguration of Portage from four to three lanes when the street is reconstructed in 2017-18. It was further recommended that a pilot project might be warranted to experiment with the proposed configuration before significant financial resources were deployed.

In late 2015, Kalamazoo pursued some of the major recommended changes on a trial basis: Portage Street was resurfaced and restriped to three lanes with a bike lane, and traffic signal timings were modified to compensate for the new traffic pattern. When reconstruction of the street moves into the detailed design phase, Kalamazoo will now have actionable data on which to base decision-making, and will be able to fully take advantage of an opportunity to make Portage a truly multi-modal and livable street.

Farmers Market Charrette

The second Key Action Area in the PlacePlan involved the Bank Street Farmers Market, a popular destination that has outgrown its current facility. Through consultation with specialists at Market Ventures, Inc., initial steps were identified to plan for the growth of the Farmers Market facility as well as for its expansion into a center of food-based business entrepreneurship.

The new farmers market plan shows phased growth of the market as well as pedestrian, bike, transit, and parking improvements.

The new farmers market plan shows phased growth of the market as well as pedestrian, bike, transit, and parking improvements.

In November 2015, Kalamazoo hosted a design charrette focused on expansion of the Farmers Market facility to better serve its growing base of customers, and expand its role from a strictly-retail operation to one which includes kitchen- and retail incubator facilities.

The final farmers market master plan includes expanded indoor and outdoor space for year-round market and events use, as well as improvements that would make it easier to get to the market. The city of Kalamazoo has additionally approved the purchase of a vacant property adjacent to the market to provide room for this expansion.

Small Developer Bootcamp

The third Key Action Area in the PlacePlan included focusing on new strategies to find and incentivize new opportunities for mixed-use and residential development. On July 29, 2015, Kalamazoo and a wide range of partners–including Southwest Michigan First, Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)–hosted two innovative events. The first, titled, “Living in Kalamazoo: What’s the Demand?” was a daylong conference presenting the findings of two key studies detailing the demand for “walkable urban” and “missing middle” housing formats in Kalamazoo: “The WalkUP Wake-Up Call: Michigan Metros”, by Chris Leinberger and Patrick Lynch of George Washington University, and the Target Market Analysis (TMA) performed for Kalamazoo by Zimmerman/Volk Associates. The findings were supplemented by further presentations on financing, tax revenue generation, and case studies of successful development in the city.

Second, an innovative “bootcamp” for small-scale developers was held in early December, 2015. The weekend workshop provided attendees a comprehensive course on all aspects of succeeding in small-scale real estate development. Twelve hour-long classes were taught by staff from the Incremental Development Alliance, a nonprofit composed of real estate, construction, planning, and community engagement experts who are hosting similar events in proactively-minded communities throughout the US. The bootcamp was a result of partnerships between the city, Southwest Michigan First, and MSHDA.


Rebekah Kik, Director of Community and Economic Development, 269.337.8044

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