Changes are imminent along Portage Street in Kalamazoo’s Edison Neighborhood

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Editor’s Note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave Edison on the floor Series.

The Edison neighborhood in Kalamazoo aims to become more family friendly and continues to make strides to achieve that.

“The neighborhood association surveyed residents, and each poll said they wanted to see more family-friendly places – shopping areas and the like,” said Tammy Taylor, executive director of the Edison Neighborhood Association. “And there’s a whole list of different things they’d like to see; everything from a pharmacy to a bank to a seating restaurant, cafes, a laundromat / dry cleaning and things like that. “

The good news is that the neighborhood is already attracting some of them. In April, a restaurant with seating – Ty’s Joint restaurant in the south – replaced the recently closed Pho on The Block, a restaurant serving Vietnamese and Asian cuisine at 1301 Portage Street. a wine tasting room at Portage St. 1319; and Layla’s Cool Pops, a cupcake and treat seller at Portage St.

Local residents can also look forward to a number of new projects, not least the development of a large new headquarters for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo.

On Thursday, October 14, 2021, the Boys & Girls Club leadership kicked off the public phase of a $ 9 million fundraiser to fund construction of the new 30,000 square foot facility on the 800 block of Portage Street. The campaign, which focuses on the young people the club serves, is titled “Your Future Is In Your Hands”. It launched earlier this year and has attracted about 60 percent ($ 5.4 million) of the fundraising target from foundations, corporations, families, and private donors, according to Matthew Lynn, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club.

The Edison Neighborhood Association, whose 816 Washington Ave. offices are shown on the left, is in the process of renovating the former Bob’s Barber building, on the right.The campaign is led by a team that includes former Boys & Girls Club CEO Bob Ezelle and local lawyer Ean Hamilton as co-chairs. In a video presentation, Ezelle said the leadership team believes the new facility will be an investment in the local youth and an investment in the community itself.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Ezelle said in a prepared statement. “As we work to bring the very best to children and young people in our community, I am excited to be part of an effort that truly gives children and young people a place where they feel they belong and gives us the opportunity to mentor to be and build character. ”

Plans filed with the City of Kalamazoo provide for a facility with space for programming, health and wellness, computer work, art and media activities and quiet learning, as well as a gym and facilities for teenage activities and children’s games. It is to be built on the largest of four unused lots that formerly housed the Grapevine furniture store. This property comprises 1.47 acres along Portage Street, between Vine and Jackson Streets. It would make room for future expansion.

The new facility is expected to serve approximately 148 young people daily and will attract many of the club’s 1,310 members. Club members are between 5 and 19 years old. More information about the campaign can be found at bgckzoo.org/future

What’s on the horizon

As people try to return to normal routines after quarantine and social distancing to avoid the COVID-19 virus, Edison residents saw the opening of The Creamery, a 48-unit apartment and 14.7 business development, in April Million dollars in Portage and Lake Streets. And they expect a regular schedule of sketch comedy shows and musical performances at the Dormouse Theater (a project where a small group of performers funded the conversion of an old church at 1030 Portage St. into a 200-seat black box theater ).

The rebuilding of streets, sidewalks, and sewers along Portage Street this summer has made traveling around the Washington Square area of ​​the Edison neighborhood difficult.“We’re working on it,” says Taylor of improvements that local residents want to see. These include a bakery, bookstore, ice cream / soda / candy store, health food store, music video arcade, fast food restaurant, hardware store (to replace Hoekstra’s hardware, which closed a couple of times on Portage Street became). Years) and a bagel / café. But getting a cup of coffee and a bagel should soon be a bit easier.

The physical structure of the conversion of the former Kalamazoo Color Lab Building at 1324 Portage St. into a diner that can serve breakfast and lunch (including coffee and bagels) is as good as complete. However, the establishment, called W / P Diner @ Washington Square, continues to be hampered by a supply chain slowdown due to COVID and a lack of skilled staff.

“That’s the overhang right now,” said William DeBoer, President and Chief Executive Officer of KPEP. Dinner is a KPEP program.

Regarding the lack of managerial staff, DeBoer says, “That was an issue in our regular program. We have been advertising a chef and a manager for a few months and have not received any applicants. “

DeBoer says the diner will be occupied by KPEP hospitality program participants, “but we need experienced administrative and teaching staff. They have to be led by an experienced manager and cook. “

KPEP, which is now the official name of the nonprofit organization formerly known as the Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program, is an off-site rehabilitation program for criminal offenders, probation officers, and probation officers. It works with state and local courts and law enforcement agencies to provide adult offenders with a community-based alternative to incarceration.

As part of the development of the diner, the students of the construction professions from KPEP learned from helping with interior demolition work at the beginning of 2020. KPEP also operates the Walnut & Park Café at 322 W. Walnut St., a café adjacent to its residential program at 519 S. Park St., which opened in March 2017. In November, the organization plans to open a second Walnut & Park location on the ground floor of the new Harrison Circle Apartments at 525 E. Ransom St. in the city’s Rivers Edge District.

About the Washington Square diner, DeBoer says, “Our plan is to hopefully open for at least one (meal) service and host events as soon as we find staff.” The COVID pandemic caused this more than to halt reconstruction work $ 500,000 project. It has also created delays in the commercial supply chain, meaning the company is still waiting to receive some of the kitchen gadgets it needs.

Upgrades to the Kalamazoo Farmers Market on Bank Street include new dealer halls, restrooms, and parking.The restaurant hopes to start with at least six employees, including a manager, a host, cooks and a waitress.

“We hope that after the start of the year we will be able to open from Monday to Friday at least from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” says DeBoer.

The bumpy road leads to a better place

A vastly improved ambience for pedestrians and motorists is on the other side of the bumps and broken sidewalk that made Portage Street a difficult route for travelers this summer.

Construction on the road between Stockbridge Avenue and Carr Streets began in April and will continue through the Washington Square area of ​​the Edison neighborhood.

“You’re redesigning water pipes,” says Taylor. “You are rebuilding the sewer system. They renew the streetscape. There will be two lanes, one in each direction with a central turn lane. There will also be new street lights that are pedestrian friendly, like the one at Bronson (Methodist) Hospital, which is totally exciting. There may be some space for an outdoor cafe. It looks like there’s room for a couple of parking spaces on the street – just a lot of really super cool stuff. “

Specifically, the $ 5.1 million project includes upgrading the undersized aqueduct under the street and replacing part of the storm sewer. Continue north on the three-lane road configuration (one lane north and one lane south with a central turn lane) that ended at Walnut Street. Cycle paths will also be laid out on this section of road.

Sidewalks will be repaired, new Americans with Disabilities Act ramps will be installed, lighting near Washington Square will be improved, and the western sidewalks between Stockbridge Avenue and Washington Streets will be widened to allow for parallel parking. Parallel on-street parking will also be added on the east side of the road between Collins and Lake Streets.

Regarding the disability road construction can create for business customers, Taylor says, “I feel really bad about my new Washington Square business. You have just started and COVID has happened. And as soon as everyone could go back to restaurants and such, they tore open the street. “

But she says she is excited to see what the construction work will ultimately bring to the business district.

A few more things to see

Neighborhood residents should look forward to the redevelopment of the Kalamazoo Farmers Market on Bank Street. This $ 4.2 million capital improvement project includes new showrooms, restrooms, and parking lots, as well as a new level of performance.

Taylor says they can also look forward to the redevelopment of the 100-year-old building that the Edison Neighborhood Association will be building west of their offices on Washington Ave. in June 2020. 816 bought. This building, which shares a driveway with the Association’s offices, is the former location of Bob’s Barbershop.

Longtime hairdresser Bob DeHaan has retired, but his space on the ground floor of the two-story building continues to be used by an undecided hairdresser, Taylor says. The association will develop ideas for the use of the remaining commercial space on this level. The second level is being converted into living space. It will have two apartments.

The project, which includes the modernization of all plumbing and wiring in the building, is funded by the City of Kalamazoo through the Foundation for Excellence Initiative and Local Initiatives Support Corp.


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