KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — While the official groundbreaking was Friday, there is already a pretty substantial hole in the ground at the southeast corner of Rose Street and Michigan Avenue.

Work on the long-awaited Exchange Building began earlier this spring.

If you’ve followed the progress of the Exchange Building, you have a good idea just how long it has taken to get from concept to groundbreaking.

It’s a factor not lost on many who took part in Friday’s ceremony.

“As a mayor I’m supposed to do this. I take full responsibility for fast tracking of this project,” joked Mayor Bobby Hopewell.

The now $52-million project dubbed “The Exchange” was first announced back in 2011 as a proposed eight-story office building.

“We had it fully approved. Then I started partnering with some new folks, and they had a larger vision,” said Greg Taylor with Phoenix Properties, who is partnering with PlazaCorp on the project.

That vision was a 15-story development with space for offices, retail and apartments. The site fulfills three wishes real-estate agents want most: Location, location, location.

The lot at Rose Street and Michigan Avenue is one of Kalamazoo’s most visible but underutilized pieces of property downtown. For 45 years, it has been home to a parking lot.

The $52-million project, helped out by a $6.4 million loan from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, will bring 335,000 square-feet of office, retail and residential space to downtown.

Chemical Bank has signed on as an anchor tenant and will take up two floors of the project.

One hundred and thirty-three apartments will also bring some much needed residential space to downtown.

“I think people want to go places and live places that feel like they’re a place with activities and opportunities, and I just think this adds to that,” said Hopewell.

The project is getting high marks on what’s called a walk score. In this case, a 90.

“Which means 90 percent of the amenities that someone who lives here would want to have are in walking distance. That’s just fantastic,” said Taylor.

“The Exchange” is the latest in a list of new projects for downtown Kalamazoo. Some are already in place — Some are in the building phase while others are on the drawing board.

“There’s a lot going on and I think one project begets another, begets another,” Hopewell said. “So, we’ll take all comers.”

“The Exchange” is expected to be completed in spring 2019.