Kalamazoo Eastside plans neighborhood revitalization projects

Eastside residents have always had pride for their neighborhood. Now, however, the care and hard work that is giving the Eastside new life, makes that pride visible for all of Kalamazoo to see.

The Eastside Neighborhood Association is beginning two new projects to facilitate neighborhood beautification. These projects are a continuation of efforts to revitalize the Eastside Neighborhood that began in 2008. 

One of the two projects helps business owners on East Main complete facade improvements. The project is made possible with facade improvement grants for local businesses through Kalamazoo’s small business development department.

The second project will allow Eastside residents to complete facade improvements to their homes. Those who participate will be able to replace windows, repair porches, paint their house, or complete any other street-level improvements. Residents are eligible for a forgivable loan if they stay in their house for at least five years after improvements are made. 

The neighborhood-wide beautification project, aided by the Kalamazoo County Landbank, works to repurpose and renew blighted properties. The term “blighted,” in this case, can be simplified to “ugly,” according to Pat Taylor, Director of the Eastside Neighborhood Association. Blighted buildings are abandoned and run down; windows are boarded over or gone, and anybody can go inside whenever they please.

“Most home owners are not interested in having those buildings near their house,” Taylor said.

Town beautification efforts can be traced back to a brainstorming session in 2008. At this session, residents spoke their desire to beautify the area, and to bring new businesses to the East Main Corridor. Since then, the Eastside Neighborhood Association has worked tirelessly to bring businesses and beauty into the area. 

Residents expressed their interest in family friendly businesses, and stores that sell merchandise with a regional draw, however Taylor says the area’s current zoning is not conducive to the changes they want to make. The current zoning is Community Commercial (CC), which allows for big-box stores like auto-repair shops and car dealerships. Taylor says the neighborhood requires mixed-use zoning, which allows for a wider variety of business types. 

The Eastside is working hard to beautify and bring businesses into the community, but regardless of these efforts, residents are proud to have a home in the Eastside.  

“I don’t think that I have ever spoken to a resident that doesn’t love living here,” Taylor said.

When she first began working for the Eastside Neighborhood Association 15 years ago, Taylor says outsiders controlled the narrative of how people talked about the neighborhood; meanwhile, resident’s voices were being drowned out. The Eastside was treated like the “poor stepchild,” of Kalamazoo; now that is starting to change, Taylor said..

“Now (residents) feel more like they are being heard,” Taylor said. “They feel better about the direction that the neighborhood is going in, and they are looking forward to more progress as the years go on.” 

Eastside residents have always had pride for their neighborhood. Now, however, the care and hard work that is giving the Eastside new life, makes that pride visible for all of Kalamazoo to see.  

Proposed changes to East Main Corridor

Proposed changes to East Main Street