Encore November 2014

Page 10

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Old Greenhouse Gets New Life

Erik Holladay

Groups partner to create community space by the river


elly Clarke ducks around the corner of the newly restored fire-engine-red barn at the Riverview Launch, a multi-use community space at 1523 Riverview Drive, where Riverside Greenhouse was located for 95 years before it went out of business. “Hey, these are new,” says Clarke, executive director of the Kalamazoo County Land Bank, pointing down at a row of yellow and orange marigolds lining the path to the barn door. “We have a plan and we’re organized, but a lot of the work isn’t being done by contractors, it’s being done by volunteers, who are excited and find creative ways to donate their time and goods, just like this.” Community involvement and collaboration have been the driving forces behind the Riverview Launch. When the former greenhouse property went into foreclosure in 2012, the Kalamazoo County Land Bank 10 | Encore NOVEMBER 2014

bought the six-acre parcel, and it has become a joint revitalization project of the Land Bank, the Kalamazoo County office of Michigan State University Extension, the Open Roads bicycle-repair program (aimed at teaching skills and providing bikes to disadvantaged youth), the Kalamazoo County Parks & Recreation Department and the Kalamazoo Nature Center. “The greenhouse was boarded and blighted, and the area around the greenhouse was filled with rubble and debris,” Clarke says. “The barn was deteriorated and in very poor shape.” As an authority of the county, the Land Bank has a mission of taking care of unwanted, blighted and foreclosed properties. The Land Bank offers communitygarden, rental-property, blight-elimination and other programs to help Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo Land Bank Executive Director Kelly Clarke (left) stands in the doorway of the newly restored barn at Riverview Launch with staff members Mike Deditius and Karma Hassell.

County residents use foreclosed and blighted properties. Clarke says the Riverview Launch area presented a new way to revitalize a blighted area. “We thought it was important to give some thought to this property, since it’s on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail and on the Kalamazoo River, and it connects to downtown, Spring Valley Park, Markin Glen Park and the Kalamazoo Nature Center.” The Land Bank partnered with OCBA landscape architects and land planners, Byce & Associates designers, the Kalamazoo Nature Center and Inform Architecture, as well as other community organizations and businesses, to host design and site-planning

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