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Kalamazoo looks for input as it considers design district expansion

Posted at 6:20 PM, Oct 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-24 12:33:43-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - The city of Kalamazoo says it’s looking to enhance some neighborhoods that are currently outside its Downtown Design Review District (DDRD). That’s an area where rules are currently in place to guide future planning.

Some business owners, like Richard Stewart, who now reside in the proposed expansion zone, have concerns about government overreach.

“I’m concerned by the fast track the city appears to be taking to get this through at election time,” said Stewart, who owns REO Specialists, LLC. “I believe we as business owners, and I believe the city needs to consider an impact study so that we might better understand the long-term ramifications of such a change and prepare for it.”

The guidelines are set as part of the DDRD.

“If you look through design guidelines, I think you’ll see them separated into standards and then guidelines and the standards we really intend to be followed,” said Laura Lam, Kalamazoo’s director of community planning and development. “The guidelines is where we create a little more flexibility”

Lam tells FOX 17 the city is looking to continue the transformations that are taking place, from the expansion of Kalamazoo Valley Community College to the Western Michigan University medical school, to the revitalization of Washington Square.

“Our intent in exploring the possible expansion of the downtown review guidelines is to really look at how we can enhance the vibrancy of the corridors,” Lam explained. “How we can make them more pedestrian friendly, make them more attractive.”

Lam says the city is ready to adjust those rules to reflect the properties within the proposed expansion zone.

“The intent is that we have some universal themes, again, vibrancy, quality of design, something that’s really going to attract pedestrians, but not have everything look the same,” Lam said.

Stewart says the district doesn’t need new guidelines.

“I believe we have a diversity here and I would like to keep that diversity and not end diversity for the area,” Stewart said.

FOX 17 spoke with other local business owners who declined, or weren’t available, to go on camera. They said they’re cautiously optimistic about the proposed expansion, adding it would be an overall positive for the community, but you can never predict the future once government is involved.

The next step in the process is Nov. 6 when the issue goes before the Kalamazoo Planning Commission.

The city says if you have an opinion on the issue, don’t wait until then, give them a call at 269-337-8026.