KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — When you first drive by the new neighborhood near the intersection of Phelps Avenue and East Michigan Avenue on Kalamazoo’s Eastside, you’ll notice the homes are smaller than most.
Not “Tiny House Hunters” small, but about 1,000 square feet each, with unfinished basements offering more room.
Space isn’t the point of the Eastside Gateway Project.
“The idea was for this project to be affordable, but also to send a signal that the Eastside is a great place to be,” Kelly Clarke said.
Clarke is the executive director of the Kalamazoo County Land Bank, which acquired the space — 11 abandoned properties — nine years ago during the Great Recession.
Since then, the Kalamazoo County Land Bank has worked with residents, volunteers, the city, home builders, community donors and others to raise money and develop a new vision for lots: a revitalization.
“All (have) come together to help fill the gap between what these homes can sell for and what they cost to build,” Clarke explained.
Two homes have already sold and two more will soon, too. There’s plans to build three more, bringing the total to seven homes, including two that will be Habitat for Humanity projects.
Among the donors is Consumers Energy Foundation, which just offered up a $100,000 grant to ensure all the homes are finished.
Consumers Energy appreciates another feature of the small homes project: they are energy efficient.
“The estimate is about $1,500 per homeowner per year that they’ll save just through energy efficiency,” explained Derek Nofz, community affairs manager for Consumers Energy.
Part of the project is a new pocket park on the same block as the homes. Phase 1 has been completed and more work is on the way.
The Eastside Gateway Project is more than just homes. It’s about rebuilding pride in a neighborhood with what Clarke called a history of disinvestment.
“We should view properties in our communities as something more than a widget to sell to the highest bidder,” Clarke said. “Properties are what make up the fabric of our community, along with the people.”
The people behind the project will hold a community celebration and open house Wednesday, May 29, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 1519 East Michigan Ave. The event is free, but those interested are encouraged to register online.