Code Cracking in Kalamazoo

A dedicated planning official in Kalamazoo suspected something was awry with the city's zoning code when she noticed that the beautiful ideas presented in their Master Plan were not being built on the ground. In particular, she saw the Edison neighborhood as an area with lots going for it, but limited development interest. Her leadership brought us to Kalamazoo to host an Implementation Clinic alongside our Small Developer Training Workshop. We walked the streets of Edison and picked out a number of properties that on the surface looked like great development opportunities. Then, we combed through the zoning code and helped workshop attendees create project proposals for these properties in small groups. In this process, local folks were able to walk through their code and a development pro forma and identify zoning barriers that were explicitly preventing walkable, financially sound small development in Edison.

Two years after our Implementation Clinic in Kalamazoo, city staff are building the political unity to repair a broken zoning code. Our local partners here had done such amazing work over the past few years to develop a great plan for Kalamazoo that a local philanthropist offered a significant sum of money to help implement those city building aspirations. Our partners have undertaken an extraordinary community education and engagement effort to explain where local ambitions are stymied by the current zoning code. They are now rewriting their zoning code to support small scale reinvestment in some of their most neglected urban neighborhoods. This team has spent countless hours in conversation with residents to ensure that as the code is rewritten, locals know how they can employ it to create income-producing buildings and great public spaces.