KALAMAZOO, MI -- The developers of the long-awaited Exchange Building say construction of the building will start in earnest this coming week in downtown Kalamazoo.
Work on the $52.7 million, 15-story commercial and residential structure -- a version of which was first announced in the spring of 2011 -- is to get underway on the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Rose Street.
The 340,000-square-foot, mixed-use development will include space for retail, office and residential uses as well as indoor parking for more than 300 vehicles.
Construction of a smaller version was originally supposed to begin in the fall of 2011. The completed project was to change the skyline of downtown Kalamazoo by late 2012 or early 2013. But work was repeatedly pushed back.
"We have been working steadily with our colleagues at PlazaCorp and many others to refine this project and look forward to the construction phase so the community can enjoy the realization of what we have been planning for several years," said Greg Taylor, principal of Phoenix Properties LLC.
Taylor said that during the past week Phoenix and partner developer PlazaCorp Realty Advisors Inc. closed off the project site with barriers and fencing, closed off adjacent sidewalks and curb lanes of traffic along Michigan and Rose, and terminated utility services on the site, which has been a public parking lot for many years.
That will allow the project to safely bring in heavy equipment, he said.
"This coming week we will start physically excavating and things like that," he said.
In a prepared statement, Andy Wenzel, director of acquisitions and development with PlazaCorp Realty Advisors, said, "The Exchange will convert the use of this site from a long-standing surface parking lot into a high-density, modern hub of activity right in the heart of downtown Kalamazoo. It will fit in perfectly with all the other exciting improvements underway in and around our community."
Developer Gregory Taylor of Phoenix Properties has teamed up with Plazacorp for the bigger project. It is expected to break ground this fall.
In a press release, the developers said the building "will feature several ground floor retail spaces, a two-story banking center, multiple levels of enclosed tenant parking, two floors of Class 'A' office space, a penthouse space on the 15###sup/sup### floor and seven floors of one-, two- and three-bedroom upscale apartments."
The project is about twice as large and twice as expensive as planned when it was announced in May of 2011, Taylor said. It was to be a 205,000-square-foot development, and was once valued at $24.5 million.
He has said the project was initially forestalled after a major investor backed away. Since then, Taylor said he has worked hard to secure necessary funding. It project gained momentum last year as PlazaCorp became involved. It will work with Phoenix Properties to attract tenants.
The Exchange Building will be owned by a combination of individuals involved with PlazaCorp LLC and Phoenix Properties LLC.
Taylor said the building is much larger than envisioned seven years ago in order to more fully utilize the site.
Commercial tenants will use the ground floor and a portion of the second floor. They will also use the entire seventh and 15 floors. There will be multiple levels of parking inside the building that will be accessed and exited via Michigan Avenue. Parking will be on a portion of the second floor and all of the third, fourth, fifth and sixth floors. Apartments will be developed on floors 8 through 14.
Asked who the developers expect to attract as tenants, and mentioning students and facility from the nearby Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine,Taylor said the project will be attractive to all users.
"We're not targeting any specific user group," he said. "This will not be exclusively students. This will not be exclusively families. This will not be exclusively anything."
He said there we be a lot of one-bedroom apartments but their size and that of other units has not yet been determined, nor have leasing rates.