Foundation awarded state funding to add housing to downtown Kalamazoo

BY Friday, June 14, 2019 11:15am

KALAMAZOO — The Kalamazoo-based Jim Gilmore Jr. Foundation has been awarded a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to add housing to downtown Kalamazoo.

The MEDC announced Wednesday it is giving the foundation a performance-based grant of $487,000 from the Michigan Community Revitalization Program to support the project. The renovations will add four one-bedroom apartments and 22 studio apartments to the former opera house building at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Portage Street.

The organization completes projects that will positively affect “the vitality of downtown Kalamazoo and its citizens,” said Chris Shook, president of the Jim Gilmore Jr. Foundation.

“The proceeds from this development will go back into the foundation to assist with downtown, so it’s a real win-win-win,” Shook told MiBiz. “It’s a win for the downtown, a win for the community and a win for the MEDC.”

The building at 162 E. Michigan Ave. originally was constructed in 1844 as an opera house. It houses the foundation and the Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership, as well as a couple of restaurants and bars in its commercial space. The second and third floors have been used as offices in the past, but remained vacant for a number of years, Shook said.

The commercial uses will stay on in the building after the renovations to the upper floors. One commercial space currently is open, but Shook expects to fill it soon.

In considering the project, Shook cited the continued need for housing in downtown Kalamazoo. A target market analysis for Kalamazoo-Portage showed the greatest need for housing was in downtown Kalamazoo, as the area has grown significantly since the early 2000s.

“The vacancy rate is proving that to be true,” Shook said. “As soon as they get built, they get rented.”

Shook estimated construction to take about six months after it begins this summer. Portage-based Continental Construction Co. Inc. is serving as construction manager for the project, and Grand Rapids-based Construction Simplified is representing the foundation, which owns the building. Phoenix Properties LLC, based in Kalamazoo, will serve as property manager for the apartments.

According to the MEDC, the project will enhance the first-floor office and retail spaces and make streetscape improvements, including adding snowmelt to the public sidewalks. The project is estimated to generate a total capital investment of $5.5 million.

The city of Kalamazoo Brownfield Redevelopment Authority also received approval from the Michigan Strategic Fund for $423,459 in local and school tax capture for the alleviation of brownfield conditions at the site.

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