PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — The Portage workforce is growing, and that means making sure housing is growing along with it. Leaders talked about what they’re doing to keep the city an enjoyable place to live.

City Manager Pat McGinnis said over the last few years, the city’s focus has shifted from jobs to housing. A 2022 Upjohn Institute study projected Kalamazoo would be 7,800 housing units short of meeting demand by 2030. McGinnis said Portage is ahead of that curve.

“They’ve been talking about housing for a couple of years now. And this year, they’re really pushing hard. All of our goals, all of our objectives, somehow weave back into the idea that we need to provide housing for these wage-earning type jobs — that middle segment of earners in our community. They are working here in Portage, they ought to be able to live here as well.”

Portage Mayor Patricia Randall said the city hopes to develop workforce housing along the lake center district area especially geared toward teachers, public safety and hourly workers at Portage-based Stryker and Pfizer. She said Portage is working with Consumers Energy and local developers to make sure new housing projects are affordable.

“We don’t want housing to become so expensive here that people cannot age in place. So, housing in our number one objective,” said Randall.

Portage is also working on beautifying its greenspaces like parks, preserves and trails.

“It’s something we have become a little bit known for across the region. Most of our local residents do take pleasure in using those facilities. So we do find our parks are very well used and we invest a lot of money in them year after year,” said McGinnis.

Randall said Portage is connecting three miles of its bike trails so that they will lead places with destinations. She hopes it’ll help the local economy as well.

“We would like to see people support the businesses along the bike trails. Each of our parks has a unique flavor or amenities. We have a park on the lake, we have parks in woods. We try to support the existing neighborhood that surrounds the park. Everyone seems to have a favorite,” Randall said.

Portage is also focusing on developing The Crossroads mall. While shopping habits change and trend more online, both Randall and McGinnis say developing the retail corridor is important to the city.

“We are being as proactive as we can with zoning, any barriers to development that might prohibit it from evolving into something different,” said Randall.

McGinnis said the city will help reinvest in commercial spaces surrounding the mall where demand is lessening because of changing shopping habits.

“City council is wanting to take the lead in this area. We’re not going to own any of it … We just have to be a leader, a facilitator. We have to bring these interests together and find ways for them to reinvest in and make that property profitable,” he said.