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Western Railroad freight office, now called The Depot, which hosts a HopCat restaurant on one end and Maru Sushi & Grill on the other. Take a quick turn south, past an old office building on Pitcher Street and nearby meatpacking plant on Walnut Street — which PlazaCorp also owns but has yet to decide how to develop — and head two miles down Portage Street to a former paper mill site on Alcott Street that is becoming a new health and human services corridor serving county residents. There, set back from the road is the former Illinois Envelope paper mill, a beautifully restored brick building that is now home to Kalamazoo County's Health and Community Services Department. "This is our typical building," Wenzel says as he walks through the renovated building at 400 Bryant St. "Solid structural base to build from. It's our kind of project." Before they could start to develop it, they had to haul away the "mattresses and trash and junk," Wenzel says. And inside, people who broke into the vacant building had set small fires. In addition, there were pipes and other paper industry leftovers that were in the way. Old elevators were torn out and the shafts opened up into a three-story atrium. Natural light comes in via restored skylights. The original wood floors were repaired, and the exposed brick cleaned. The building’s clients might enjoy the convenience of the new location and the modern office life infused into the 115-year-old building, but there are still not-so-subtle reminders of the building’s past rooted in the décor. A massive and intricate safe from the Detroit Safe Co., with multiple hidden compartments opened wide, is displayed in the building’s lobby. Just past that, an old industrial scale remains embedded in the floor.

Opposite page: The renovated Illinois Envelope building off Alcott Street now houses Kalamazoo County’s Health and Community Services Department and includes interior touches such as the building’s original safe. Above: Work is underway to turn the site of the former Gibson Guitar factory complex into a facility housing businesses and an entertainment venue.

"I'd say 90 percent is original," Wenzel says. "We brought it back to life with new windows, restoring skylights, bringing back brick and original floor." When the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services department moved into the renovated building last year, it joined the nearby Family Health Center and Kalamazoo County Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services facilities, which are located a few hundred yards away across a vacant field. But the field won’t be vacant for long. A new Michigan Department of Health and Human Services building is planned for the space and will open in 2020. Alcott Street between Portage and Burdick streets is becoming a corridor of community services, says Tammy Taylor, executive director of the Edison Neighborhood Association. "Those are really exciting for us — a one-stop shopping area for people who need services," says Taylor. "It will transform more than that area," she adds. The new influx of workers "will need a place to eat and hang out after work. That's what's driving some of the new businesses and those that will be coming on." Reviving an icon

Another neighborhood experiencing change in the form of a PlazaCorp project is the Northside of Kalamazoo. While The Exchange w w w.encorekalamazoo.com | 27

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...