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Riverview Launch takes shape in Kalamazoo

Riverview Launch takes shape with help of volunteers, community in Kalamazoo

Posted on July 9, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on July 9, 2014 at 4:02 a.m.

KALAMAZOO TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A project designed to highlight the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail and the Kalamazoo River is taking shape northeast of Kalamazoo.

Riverview Launch, a Kalamazoo County Land Bank Authority project being built on six acres, will feature a restored historic barn for a gathering space for bikers, runners and walkers, office and meeting spaces and renovation of an existing greenhouse for youth programming based on gardening and urban agriculture, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette (http://bit.ly/1qrDVru ).

Plans for future development include a kayak/canoe launch, community gardens, interactive public art made out of natural materials and other elements, depending on fundraising.

“We’ve been continuing to think about ways in which we can engage the community as we progress with this project,” Land Bank Executive Director Kelly Clarke said.

A capital campaign to fund the project is about 55 percent to its $1.9-million goal, she said, and community involvement and volunteers have contributed to the project as opportunities are available, allowing an inclusive approach to renovating the site.

Riverview Launch sits on the former home of Riverside Greenhouses, which closed in December 2011. Portions of the tax-foreclosed, blighted property were demolished in 2013, along with almost 80 other Kalamazoo County properties, with the help of a $1 million state grant.

Funding raised for the project so far includes approximately $673,000 in government, foundation, corporate and individual grants and donations, $328,000 in a 0 percent loan and $60,000 in donated value, Clarke said. Kalamazoo County allocated $100,000 in early funds in 2013 to jumpstart the project “as part of an effort to better leverage local funds for blight removal,” Clarke said.

The 9,000 square feet of office and meeting space will be home to the Land Bank, Michigan State University Extension Junior Master Gardeners and the Open Roads bicycle program. MSU Extension officials plan to conduct youth activities using the greenhouse and green space. Open Roads teaches youth social and bike mechanic skills. Both Open Roads and MSU Extension have pilot projects happening at the site this summer in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club.

Volunteer work has varied, from doing landscape improvements around the barn last fall to 4-H members installing perennial gardens. A total of 120 volunteers have rolled sod and installed a deck on the barn, according to Clarke.

Volunteers also have participated in brainstorming sessions about the site, Clarke said.

“It’s been interesting to think about the ideas and how they can be implemented into spaces in our community,” she said. “What we’ve discovered is when you invite people around what can we do with our problem properties, a lot of folks have creative ideas and we’re able to see a more innovative and thoughtful approach.”

Clarke said fundraising continues for building restoration and construction. The greenhouse and office space should be functional by 2015, she said.

Information from: Kalamazoo Gazette, http://www.mlive.com/kalamazoo




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