Kalamazoo County to start working on land swap

If deal goes through, county would build new courthouse/admin building downtown

Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners
The March 7, 2017 meeting of the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners.


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — There has been talk for years about how to merge the Kalamazoo County’s two courthouses on Michigan Avenue and Crosstown Parkway in Kalamazoo. Tuesday night, the county took the first step in making that happen.

The Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners gave administrators the green light to start working out a land swap that would eventually lead to the construction of a new county building and courthouse in the city of Kalamazoo.

Under the deal, the county would trade the Michigan Avenue courthouse for a currently vacant lot bordered by Kalamazoo Avenue and Eleanor Street on the north and south and Cooley Street and N. Park Street on the west and east. That parcel of land is owned by developers.

Kalamazoo County land swap
This map from Kalamazoo County shows where a new courthouse and county building may be built if a land swap is approved.

Before their unanimous vote Tuesday, commissioners asked questions about the transfer of the title and commented on how far the county has come in the process.

“We spent two long years not getting a lot of traction and now I think we’re hitting, I wouldn’t say all cylinders, but better moving forward,” Commissioner Scott McGraw said.

The swap is not yet a done deal. The administration will hammer out the details, then come back to the commission for final approval.

The courthouse on Michigan Avenue was constructed between 1936 and 1937. Kalamazoo County Administrator Tracie Moored said developer MW Acquisitions will maintain the building’s history and is willing to preserve its façade for between 20 and 25 years.

“There’s definitely, I’m sure, community that views that as a historic landmark,” Moored said.

It’s unclear what would go into the building, but Moored says it could be mixed use.

The new downtown building would combine the Michigan Avenue and Crosstown Parkway courthouses and the county administration building, housing elected officials’ offices, administration and the Board of Commissioners.

“We look for consolidated footprint — less building, less maintenance, less operations,” Moored said.

The building between $80 million and $100 million. The money will come from bonding measures, a capital improvement fund and operation funds. The next step for the county is to hire an owner’s representative to start the engineering and an architect to bring down the cost of the project.

Moored said the project could serve as an economic engine for downtown.

The lot where the new building would go up, which is currently being used for parking, was previously set aside as part of a downtown arena project that never came to fruition. Three other lots meant to be involved in that project may be filled with mixed-use buildings. All together, the various developments could come with a $200 million price tag.

Kalamazoo County, courthouse
An empty lot in Kalamazoo where a new county building may be built. (March 7, 2017)