Vacant Kzoo church to be razed to make way for playscape

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

Images of vacant Kalamazoo First Reformed Church, which will be demolished to make way for a new natural playscape. (Nov. 20, 2020)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Demolition has begun at a 140 year old church in downtown Kalamazoo to make way for a natural playscape.

First Congregational Church and the Kalamazoo Nature Center first unveiled plans to build a natural playscape on the site of First Reformed Church in late 2018. The Children’s Nature Playscape will include a 130-foot-by-130-foot nature playscape geared toward children under the age of 10.

“Our hope is to provide a safe and accessible space that serves young children of all abilities and socioeconomic backgrounds with a place to play and explore — a space that allows them to interact freely and creatively with the natural world,” Jody Brylinsky, Children’s Nature Playscape on Bronson Park board chair, said in a Friday statement.

Courtesy Seven Generations Architecture and Engineering

First Congregational Church bought First Reformed Church from The River Church in 2016. According to Kalamazoo Public Library’s Local History, First Reformed Church constructed the original structure for the building in 1871. In 1910, it was remodeled to add a brick veneer and new windows. Dwindling membership in the early 2000s led to the congregation closing the church doors in 2003.

First Reformed Church will be the second church more than 100 years old to be torn down around Bronson Park in the last year. The Church of Christ, Scientist building on the corner of South and Park streets was torn down by the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. The land is now a green space as the KIA determines what to do with it.

The land between Academy Street and Michigan Avenue and Park Street and Church Street was designated “Church Square” by Titus Bronson. The first four Christian religious groups to ask were given land. The site is still occupied by First Congregational Church and First Baptist Church.

The razing of First Reformed Church will begin next week. There is no timetable on when the nature playscape will be completed.

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