KALAMAZOO, MI — Kalamazoo is charting a course for the next decade.
During the last 16 months, city staff and more than 3,500 resident comments worked to develop Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 master plan and strategic vision. Monday, the City Commission unanimously approved the strategic vision, which provides direction to city staff, consultants, and contractors that are working on projects and policies.
The commission also authorized the release of its master plan for a 63-day public comment period.
Feedback will be evaluated by staff, and possible adjustments will be considered for the document. A final draft of the master plan will be provided to the community, culminating in a public hearing before the Planning Commission and a final meeting with the City Commission.
Mayor Bobby Hopewell thanked the residents who participated in the process.
“If makese the document work and makes the vision more alive and real because we had a statistically significant representation of our citizens,” Hopewell said. “I think their participation makes this so much better.”
Ten strategic goals were identified, which will shape the direction of all future plans. Each goal was defined by the community and includes a list of actions to be taken, as well as metrics for city staff to measure the progress and impact of each goal.
“I can safely say this is much different than anything that has (come to the) City Commission since I’ve been living here,” said Commissioner Jack Urban. “We went through a major reassessment of our city and what its future could be after the 2008 recession. We are a new regime now and this strategic vision reflects the realities of that but with great optimism.”
Commissioner David Anderson described the strategic vision and master plan as living documents, that are subject to be adjusted based on community desires.
The first goal is to ensure that Kalamazoo has opportunities for people of all economic backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities.
Residents and staff want to reduce income inequities while identifying and addressing barriers in the community that create inequity. Shared prosperity involves a strong focus on family support, education, skill training, wealth building and coordinating wrap-around services.
Achieving this goal will require collaboration, Kik said. A spectrum of partners including educational institutions, business, public agencies and non-profits will be sought.
Kalamazoo would measure the income gap between people of color and the overall population, affordability of housing and the rate of unemployment.
Infrastructure and transportation improvements were among the most-cited requests during the Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 process.
This goal is heavily focused on land use and creating defined transportation networks throughout the city, Kik said. It would be accomplished by creating safe and accessible neighborhood centers and destinations, while encouraging active modes of transportation.
Success would be judged based on the increase of bicycle, pedestrian and public transportation trips, reduction of vehicle miles traveled and the creation of sidewalks, bike lanes and trails.
Inviting Public Places
Building on the previous goal, design would focus on inclusive public spaces that integrate the natural environment and considers the needs of the community.
This goal encourages creating innovative street design that includes places for residents to gather at markets, festivals, neighborhood centers or street parks. Art, culture and recreation activities would be promoted to increase happiness and well-being.
Some metrics of success include percent of green space by population, investment in parks and recreation and the number of trees planted along streets.
In addition to increasing green spaces, this goal looks at ways to conserve energy and resources.
Community redevelopment efforts include removing lead water service lines, rehabilitating and weatherizing homes, addressing blight, protecting historic properties and promoting green building practices.
Food production would be encouraged on land, rooftops, and other spaces to provide for local sustainable food sources. The tree canopy would also be expanded throughout the city for health and environmental benefits that trees provide.
Other actions include managing groundwater, stormwater and wastewater safely and responsibly to minimize pollution and encouraging recycling efforts.
The city would measure how many tons of waste are disposed per resident each year, how many tons of waste could be recycled or composted, the percentage of land preserved for floodways or natural habitats, the amount of locally-sourced food and the number of community gardens.
An action plan to reduce greenhouse gases and encourage renewable energy is also being considered, after being identified as a concern of residents.
The city will commit to continue investment in public health and safety.
This includes investment in neighborhoods and code enforcement to ensure that homes and public spaces are clean, safe and secure.
Law enforcement would ensure prompt response to calls for service across the city by measuring response times. Policing patterns would be identified to enhance department operations and adhere to policies and strategic plans.
In the community, a shared responsibility for personal safety would be promoted through education and engaging the community in identifying and addressing safety concerns.
Crime rates, perception of crime, blight and code enforcement cases, rehabilitation and demolition of homes and the replacement of lead service lines will be measured.
This goal seeks to provide more resources to support structured experiences for youth. It also focuses on ensuring safe and stable home environments.
Success would be measured by high school graduation rates by ethnicity, youth employment rates, health indicators like obesity and infant mortality and the use of the Kalamazoo Promise.
Ensuring access to goods and services is another goal of the strategic vision.
Kik said the master plan will specifically address specific neighborhood plans, which would update previous plans that were created almost a decade ago.
Under the strategic vision, each neighborhood would provide access to daily needs and basic amenities, including places for socialization and play.
Community engagement, the number of parks and neighborhood activities, housing affordability, access to fresh food, jobs and gathering centers are a few ways to gauge progress toward the goal.
Strength Through Diversity
The strategic vision recognizes that barriers do not equally represent the “dignity and value of all people” have existed for years.
Residents and staff agreed that the city should strive to eliminate discrimination and create an equitable environment for all.
Stated actions include developing inclusive programming, reducing bias and increasing acceptance among people of many backgrounds, supporting the preservation of community identity, and addressing institutional racism.
Success would be measured by tracking residents engaged through continuous community outreach and evaluating inclusive practices in the city.
Growing businesses and stabilizing the local economy is another goal of the strategic vision. This doesn’t just focus on large-scale developments, the vision makes room for locally-owned businesses at risk of being displaced by increasing cost or other pressures.
Mixed-use, walkable urban centers and neighborhoods would help create a local economy of resident-owned businesses. Minority entrepreneurs would also be incentivized to create diverse development opportunities.
Enhancements to the downtown core are also included. Public infrastructure like roads, utilities and high-speed internet need to be accessible.
The city is looking to create more jobs and businesses, while encouraging spending to occur in Kalamazoo.
The final goal is for City Hall to make policy decisions in ways that are collaborative and driven by data.
The city will continue to use priority-based budgeting to implement its vision in a financially responsible way. Meanwhile publicly available data will allow residents to see what metrics are used to guide the decision-making process.
This goal calls for transparency, accountability and innovation in city government.
Attracting and retaining a high-quality, engaged and productive workforce.
Annual reports on hiring, retention, various projects and other policies will provide some metrics on the city’s ability to govern, in addition to feedback from residents.