Redevelopment of the Southern Gateway to Downtown Kalamazoo, Ml
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In undertaking my SIP with Vine Ventures Incorporated of Kalamazoo, it was not at first clear what my work would constitute or what kind of project would develop out of that work. However, after getting my bearings within the organization during my first few weeks of work, I began focusing my time and energy on a single project that VVI was planning. That project came to encompass a wide variety of tasks concerning the redevelopment of the Park Street neighborhood in Kalamazoo. The redevelopment of this particular area is of special significance to the City of Kalamazoo as a whole due to the location of Park Street in relation to the downtown area (see Appendix A) . Park Street is one of the most efficient ways to reach Kalamazoo's center. It most effectively links Interstate 94 and US 131 to the central business district. It also connects important resources such as the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport to this core of business and government activities. However, because Park Street has come to be in a serious state of dilapidation and disrepair, travelers are for the most part directed to circumvent the area by means of Oakland Drive or other routes (see Appendix A) in order to avoid the eyesore. Through involving Park Street residents and businesses, it was Vine Venture's objective to create a citizen group that would undertake the task of designing, promoting, and carrying out a revitalization campaign that would target an area roughly three blocks in length. By making general exterior improvements to residential properties, cleaning up and providing general landscaping for these properties, and improving streets and signage in this area, we hoped to create a more pleasant neighborhood to live and work in as well as travel through. In addition, it was hoped that the success of this project would have a "spill-over" effect on other blocks near this gateway. Ideally, our goal was to inspire a widespread redevelopment of the area which would allow Park Street to flourish as Kalamazoo's primary gateway community to the downtown. In the related field in which I conducted the research portion of my Senior Individualized Project I examined the ways in which the government provides financial support or incentives for redevelopment projects such as the one on Park Street. I found that most assistance comes in the form of tax abatement or grants with specific project criteria. It was encouraging to find that several of the programs that I researched were already being utilized here in Kalamazoo. Other programs hold promise for future use here, possibly through the initiative of organizations like Vine Ventures, Inc. Examples of how each of these programs have been put to use were abundant and always inspiring. These examples were useful in envisioning the prospects for areas like Park Street as well as other similarly dilapidated neighborhoods. It was clear, however, that along with assistance from local, state, or national government programs, it would always be necessary to conduct a substantial amount of fundraising as well as coordination with financial institutions. In order to embark successfully on a project even as physically small as a three block area requires a combination of these three financial resources, as was demonstrated by the Park Street Redevelopment Project.