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City of Kalamazoo to look after downtown development, economic growth during reorganization

Downtown Kalamazoo in Winter
Posted at 11:29 AM, Jan 12, 2022

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The city of Kalamazoo will now be overseeing development and economic growth to help with the reorganization of the downtown area.

This comes as the city joins forces with downtown organizations to re-imagine its future.

It's all about the financial impact and more importantly how downtown Kalamazoo organizations with its new partnership can continue to bring value to the city center.

"For the last 30 or 40 years, the downtown has, in many ways operated on its own," said Grant Fletcher, the chairperson for the Kalamazoo Downtown Development Authority and Downtown Economic Growth Authority.

The 1980s — that is when the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) began.

"That has covered a really wide range of work, everything from marketing and advertising to planning and executing events, to business recruitment and retention activities. We have been the body that acquires land and helps to develop land and sells land off," said Fletcher.

The DDA also largely focused on the ins and outs of parking downtown, which was overseen by the city of Kalamazoo.

Fast forward to 2018, the Downtown Economic Growth Authority (DEGA) was created as a response to shortfalls in tax increment financing the DDA was seeing.

DEGA created a new tax increment financing district and projected future revenues, reevaluating year after year.

"They were very ambitious originally, and a more realistic picture arose this year, which has prompted us again to kind of go back to the drawing board and reevaluate how we do the work of the downtown," said Fletcher.

Now, the city of Kalamazoo has come into the picture, getting involved to help financially support the creation of a brighter and bolder downtown.

"Communities all over the country are experiencing the same thing for any number of reasons. We just happen to be lucky that we have a city that is imaginative and willing to do this work with us and has some financial resources to bring to the table," said Fletcher.

The organizations and city plan to focus on how to continue bringing value to downtown, keeping restaurants, living, out-of-town accommodations and shopping at visitors fingertips.

"We attract people from around the country in the world who come here to visit, and we want to know what their experience is like. We want to build a downtown and a probably a larger community around it that it says ‘Come hang out in this place because it's really cool,’" said Fletcher.

Within the next couple of years, Fletcher said one of their priority items with the city will be focusing on the parking plan to streamline the system and process.