KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — City leaders in Kalamazoo heard updates Monday night on two major projects coming to southwest Michigan and the impact they’ll have on the city.
The two projects in question are the Marshall Megasite and the downtown Kalamazoo events center — what Southwest Michigan First CEO Jonas Peterson calls “big wins for the region.”
While not directly involved with the megasite, Southwest Michigan First expects to see a need for housing. Peterson said housing is a topic they hear about from a lot of businesses looking to locate in the region. He told commissioners housing hasn’t really been on the organization’s radar in the past, but it’s something they need to start addressing.
“This is an issue that we need to tackle … together,” Peterson said. “If you look at projects like the Ford (plant) moving forward in Marshall and the thousands of new workers that will be for that project alone, not to mention the many others that are scattered across our region, there’s going to be increased demand for housing. That means we need to be moving now on new housing developments and we need availability at so many different price points.”
Peterson also talked about the recent announcement of the privately-funded downtown Kalamazoo events center — a project that has been under discussion for years. He said the location near several Kalamazoo neighborhoods and the transportation center was intentional. Commissioners, including Qianna Decker, wanted to know how these neighborhoods are going to be included in the conversation.
“How do you plan to reach out to these organizations and gather their input to what’s going to be happening … less than a mile from where they’re going to be living, growing and wanting to stay?” Decker asked.
“This is a privately-funded event center, but it’s very much significant to the community. With that in mind, we wanted to go above and beyond with community outreach during the concept design process,” Peterson answered. “So, we formed a concept design group … We relied on that group, along with others, to help us formally and informally reach out to groups we could invite or that they could, in turn, invite others to be a part of variety of stakeholder decisions.”
Another issue brought up on the event center by commissioner Chris Praedel was traffic and transportation.
“One thing that’s going to be particularly unique about this as well is you have a massive facility with major employment, with walkability, ease-of-access,” Praedel said.
One facet Peterson elaborated on was parking, which he says was factored into the venue’s design, along with Kalamazoo Avenue traffic data.
“We have significantly more than even the recommended amount of parking going in,” Peterson said. “But yet at the same time, there’s hope that many who experience the event center will choose to park a distance away and experience the community.”
There is still no answer as to when the event center will be built. But with it being in the final planning stages, Peterson told commissioners they’ll hope to provide a construction timeline within the next six months.