- Associated Press - Sunday, March 12, 2017

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - Kalamazoo leaders are working to come up with a plan to develop a deserted property on downtown’s west end.

The span of four blocks known as Arcadia Commons West has sat nearly empty for two decades and is used mainly for parking.

Kalamazoo County has proposed to turn one of the four blocks into a new courthouse, which county commissioners hope will spur wider development.

City Council voted Tuesday to move forward with the plan, which involves PlazaCorp buying all four blocks from their current owners in a land swap that results in the county owning one for the potential courthouse. PlazaCorp will get to develop two blocks, as well as the existing nearby courthouse. Western Michigan University would own the fourth block.

Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners Chairman Dale Shugars said he’s confident the project will result in more growth.

Michigan Association of Planning program director Wendy Rampson said it could be challenging to have a development with this many stakeholders. She said that to be successful in downtown areas in the Midwest, cities must balance retail, employment and residential to attract people, especially young residents.

“Big projects are scary,” she said, and “not very prevalent.”

While some stakeholders would rather not have a government building use the lot, commissioner Stephanie Moore said she thinks the courthouse development would be perfect for the core of the city.

“Our downtown is hour heartbeat and we have to make sure the body around it is just as healthy,” Moore said.

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Information from: Kalamazoo Gazette, http://www.mlive.com/kalamazoo

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