Prairie Gardens

The site of the Prairie Gardens senior cottages development is one of the highest points in the city of Kalamazoo, sitting on a hill in Kalamazoo’s Fairmount neighborhood. When the Land Bank became involved in the property, it was the former Southwestern Michigan Tuberculosis Sanitarium and Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital complex, which was built in the 1950s and shut down in 1990. It sat vacant, vandalized, and a target for criminal activity until 2011.

Through a partnership between Western Michigan University, the City of Kalamazoo, and the Kalamazoo County Land Bank, and funding from the NSP program, we were able to demolish this large, blighted structure. The Kalamazoo County Land Bank convened community charrettes to gather public input, and along with additional NSP funding, this allowed the team to begin construction on Prairie Gardens in 2012.

This 6-acre site was planned as an attractive, mixed-income housing community for seniors 55 years and older, with accessible and energy efficient cottage-style duplexes. The development group, Byce Design Build, crafted a beautiful vision for the space, including walking trails, rain gardens, a bio-swale, and a community pavilion with exercise equipment and space to meet.

This initial collaboration resulted in the completion in 2012 of 14 units, which were fully leased up within a few months. The waiting list for available units grew, and in 2014, additional NSP funding allowed Prairie Gardens “Phase 2” to commence, again in partnership with MSHDA and developers Byce & Associates and Glas Associates. The site was completed with 10 additional units and fully leased up in February 2016. It remains an attractive and peaceful space for its residents, and a reminder of what can be accomplished with formerly vacant and blighted spaces.