Kalamazoo postpones property purchase for housing development

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Kalamazoo is considering the purchase of a 14-acre property for redevelopment that would include affordable housing and retail space.

The former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services building and property on East Stockbridge Avenue near Burdick Street has sat vacant for about a year. The city is looking to buy the property at a cost of $2 million.

The city commission voted to postpone a decision on the purchase Monday night until its next meeting on Aug. 16.

Commissioner Jack Urban spoke in favor of the city moving forward with acquiring the property.

“Right now, that site is decidedly unattractive. It is out of use, so I am hoping that through whatever the city does, we’ll end up with something better than what’s there now,” Urban said.

Some residents voiced concerns about the purchase, worried about how the green space on the property will be persevered, saying it provides a buffer during flooding.

“Over and over for literal years, residents of South Town have been vocally against development of this property as it’s their last bit of green space,” one resident said in a recorded message during public comment.

Dorothy Appleyard questioned the location of the housing development in the South Town neighborhood being built in a flood plain.

“I think building homes in an area that floods frequently, in an era of climate change, is foolhardy at best. There must be a more desirable site for this housing project to be built,” Appleyard said.

The site is also located in a Natural Features Protection area and Kalamazoo resident David Benac asked the city to change its purchase agreement to only acquire the already developed land and not the green space.

“There is discussion in this proposal to do a wetland restoration. There would be no reason to do a wetland restoration if you didn’t build in the wetland,” Benac said.

The city made a presentation showing the property and providing background on the plan. Most of the details would have to be addressed later in the process through public input and zoning regulations if the purchase is approved.

Urban says buying the property would give the city more control over how the site is developed, keeping flooding and environmental considerations as a top priority.

“There is some concern about whether we will handle it right. I have trust that we will,” Urban said.

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