Kalamazoo land swap clears way for courthouse

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A new Kalamazoo County courthouse is one step closer to becoming a reality after a land swap deal was recently finalized.

After about 20 years of trying to revitalize the area, a deal was finally struck to invest $100 to $200 million in to the project in the northwest corner of downtown Kalamazoo.

In a deal involving six Kalamazoo organizations, local developer PlazaCorp will get the historic Kalamazoo County courthouse on Michigan Avenue. In return, Kalamazoo County will get a parcel of land in the Arcadia Commons west part of downtown Kalamazoo. That piece of land is of Kalamazoo Avenue between Cooley and Park streets.

“There were considerations of where it would be best to locate a new courthouse,” said Andrew Haan, president of Downtown Kalamazoo Inc. “And there were some options that were not downtown that were under consideration, so we’re really glad that they’re staying downtown, keeping that footprint and all the associated traffic and business that comes with it.”

Kalamazoo County intends to build a new courthouse, which would combine the Michigan Avenue and Crosstown Parkway courthouses. It could also house elected officials’ offices and other administration employees.

All of this comes after years of trying to revitalize the northwest corner of downtown Kalamazoo. At one point, there was a movement to put an arena there, but that fell through. Haan said the dirt lot became barren and blighted, used mostly for surface parking for more than 20 years.

“It was just the right thing to do at the right time, and people were very motivated and very willing,” Chuck Vliek, the program vice president for Local Initiatives Support Corporation, explained of the plan. “It was a great team effort. Everybody got a victory out of this, and downtown will get the biggest victory.”

Haan says PlazaCorp will fill the southern parcel of land with a mixed-use development. Western Michigan University owns a small piece of land in the northwest corner and will use it for future development.

“It will be transformative for that part of the community,” Haan said.

All of this raises the question of what PlazaCorp will do with the old courthouse. In March, Kalamazoo County Administrator Tracie Moored told 24 Hour News 8 the developer will maintain the building’s history and is willing to preserve its façade for another 20 to 25 years.

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