Marketplace Quick Facts
Construction of 24 new homes in the Edison neighborhood over the next 2-3 years is expected to create exciting home ownership opportunities for a wide range of buyers, work experience for ex-offenders, and work for local builders.
Following nine years of starts and stops, the city of Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo County Land Bank Authority and the Home Builders Association of Greater Kalamazoo have announced plans to use $4 million in federal stimulus money to transform a vacant, seven-acre site in the Washington Square area into Kalamazoo’s largest, single-family-home project in decades.
Some of the area's top, custom home builders—some known for million-dollar projects-have agreed to construct the first homes in what's being called The Marketplace at Washington Square, located west of Portage Street and east of the Bank Street Farmers' Market. Work is expected to begin immediately with plans to have the first four units featured as part of June Parade of Homes sponsored by the Home Builders Association.
As the first 18 Marketplace homes are sold, the mortgage proceeds will be used to fund the last four to six homes.
The HBA is establishing an application process to award future construction projects at Marketplace and interested subcontractors can request specifications and submit bids for parts of the work through a secured, online Builder Fusion bid room.
According to Dale Shugars, HBA executive vice president, builders for the first homes have already been participating with Project HOPE, a local offshoot of the Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Initiative that provides construction trades education and temporary jobs to help selected ex-offenders to enhance their employability. Ten ex-offenders, who have completed initial training, will be hired by Marketplace builders to work 80 to 100 hours for the participating contractors.
"This is going to be an amazing project for everybody," Shugars said. "Our builders have the experience necessary to give Marketplace the best quality homes and members of Project HOPE the best possible training experience. It's a tremendous thing for Kalamazoo to rebuild part of the community while helping these individuals rebuild their lives. We're all going to be very proud of this 24-home neighborhood."
Stimulus dollars, property tax reductions and five-star, energy-efficient construction will help make the 1,700- to 1,800-square-foot homes affordable for qualified buyers earning at or below 120 percent of the area median income. For example, a qualified family of four with an annual, household income of up to $73,200 would be eligible.
The Craftsman-style, three-bedroom, 2.5 bath homes will cost about $200,000 to build. The use of federal stimulus funding will allow them to be sold for about half that.
Officials say the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 provides funds to add affordable, above-average, new construction homes in urban core neighborhoods where residential property values have been depressed by concentrations of vacant homes and foreclosures. The idea is that the Marketplace plat can help stabilize the area's residential property values and promote pride on surrounding blocks. The project might also be a spark for jumpstarting redevelopment of the nearby Portage Street commercial corridor.
“The Market Place development builds off a 10 year community-wide effort, of which Bronson has been a partner, to reinvigorate the Edison Neighborhood,” said Bob Doud, Vice President of Public Affairs at Bronson Hospital. “Bronson supports owner-occupied housing as a staple to neighborhood-based economic development and is committed to offering to employees an opportunity to use Bronson’s Home Ownership Program to purchase Market Place homes.”
The Marketplace project has been on the city's drawing board for more than nine years. The land was purchased by a California development group in 2003 and the city invested federal Community Development Block Grant funds to build a road, sidewalks, install utilities and street lights there in 2005.
But the California developer was unable to reach agreement with the city on design and pricing for homes and the project languished until last year. Stimulus dollars, supplemented with support from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and the Local Initiative Support Corporation, generated funds for the Kalamazoo County Land Bank to acquire the undeveloped plat.
The city also designated Marketplace as a Neighborhood Enterprise Zone. According to Laura Lam, deputy director of Community Planning and Development, that means resident homeowners will pay about one-third the normal city property taxes bills, saving about $2,000 a year for 10 to 15 years.
Some buyers also may qualify for help with the 20 percent down payment in the form of a "forgivable" loan that is reduced over 10 years.
Marketplace originally was platted with 31 lots. That's been pared to 24 sites to create wider lots, typically 70-feet by 100 feet deep.
The design includes a front porch, rear deck, landscaping and attached, two-car garage. They are designed to federal "visitability" requirements, which mean a "zero-step" entrance to the main floor. The two-story construction is not fully handicapped-accessible. However, the Homebuilders Association can make a fully handicapped accessible or “universal design” home available.
Jeff Chamberlain, city Community Planning and Development director, said quality compliance requirements will prompt a series of building inspections during construction and spending is expected to be closely audited. Builders are providing two-year warranties on the homes.
Officials say Kalamazoo's partnership between city government, the Kalamazoo County Land Bank and the Home Builders Association could provide a new model for urban housing development in a city where one-third of the homes here were built before 1940.
"We are very excited to work with the high quality builders who are partnering with the Home Builders Association," said Kalamazoo County Treasurer Mary Balkema, Land Bank board chairman. "They have a strong reputation in this community for quality workmanship."
Scott McGraw, HBA director of special projects and development, will coordinate both construction contracting and purchase inquiries. He can be contacted by calling 269-375-4225 or email@example.com.
Information on other homes financed through the Homeownership Opportunity Program is available by contacting Anna Crofoot, city community development secretary, 269-337-8789. The City of Kalamazoo is committed to advancing the public's health, safety and economic welfare by providing leadership, services, information, and support for the citizens, businesses, and visitors of Kalamazoo.