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Street Market, and an adjacent parking ramp into two new Hilton hotels: a Garden Inn and Home2 Suites. Both The Exchange and the new hotels are expected to draw more people to the city’s center and capture an underserved market, adding 200 mid-level and high-end residential units and another 400 units of hotel rooms, says Andy Wenzel, PlazaCorp executive vice president. The renovation of the former Masonic Temple will be the latest of several restoration projects in Kalamazoo undertaken by PlazaCorp since Canadian-born Jeff Nicholson founded the company here 30 years ago to be closer to the family of his wife, Barbara Baker. PlazaCorp’s early projects in the area were a mix of retail sites and condominiums, but in 1997, according to a 2002 Encore interview with Nicholson, after seeking a “neat old building” in downtown Kalamazoo for its company offices, PlazaCorp took on its first ambitious renovation of a historical Kalamazoo building: the former Globe Casket

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Co. site on Water Street. The four-story brick building was gutted and now houses offices and The Beer Exchange restaurant and bar. In the two decades since, the company has restored and renovated a dozen buildings of varying vintages in downtown Kalamazoo and was recognized for these efforts in 2018 with a Historic Preservation Merit Award from the city of Kalamazoo’s Historic Preservation Commission. “PlazaCorp gets the idea that people value historic buildings and like being in them,” says Sharon Ferraro, historic preservation coordinator for the city of Kalamazoo. “They know these are good buildings that can be reused, and they recognize the value of these buildings to the community.” "Everybody wants to enjoy the work they're doing for a living. I consider myself fortunate to be able to accomplish both in what I do,” says Nicholson, PlazaCorp president. “When renovating or restoring an older abandoned or underutilized property you are not talking

about cookie cutter projects, but rather complex puzzles that I enjoy solving while at the same time helping to preserve a small part of Kalamazoo's legacies. Legacies such as guitar making, the paper industry, railroad hub and the like. I believe the staff here feels the same and are proud when they see the results of their hard work in the bricks and mortar projects that we undertake." Energizing neighborhoods

To get a good view of some of the company's accomplishments, just take the long way from its first rejuvenation project to its most recently completed effort in Kalamazoo's Edison neighborhood. Starting on Pitcher Street, pass the striking red brick hues of The Speareflex and The Globe buildings while skirting the restored United Building, which was once an armory and dance hall. Turn left onto West Michigan Avenue and just over the railroad tracks you’ll see the block-long former Grand Trunk

Profile for Encore Magazine

Encore January 2019  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine — How PlazaCorp is transforming Kalamazoo and saving its history, the art of ripped paper, meet Kristen Crandl...

Encore January 2019  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine — How PlazaCorp is transforming Kalamazoo and saving its history, the art of ripped paper, meet Kristen Crandl...