2009 DOWNTOWN COMPREHENSIVE PLANNING PROCESS
 

Many individuals – the project team, downtown stakeholders, and the general public – actively participated in this update of the 1996 Downtown Plan. Stretching over the course of fourteen months, this effort required a significant investment of time and effort by these many contributors. The process was conducted in four phases.
 
Phase I – Listening and Learning. This first phase included a number of meetings with the project team to discuss previous planning efforts, current issues and expectations for the planning process. At this time an extensive effort to engage the public was also conducted, which included a series of focus group meetings and interviews that are more thoroughly described in the next section. Existing information and approved plans were compiled, reviewed and analyzed to establish a foundation for development of the 2009 Downtown Comprehensive Plan.
 
Phase II – Exploring and Creating. During this second phase, ideas were developed and explored that built on previous downtown planning efforts. A vision statement, planning principles, priorities and recommendations were developed with input from the project team, staff and the public at a community forum. 
 
Phase III – Testing and Evaluating. Once the vision statement, guiding principles and community values, strategic priorities and recommendations were refined, a series of review meetings were held with the project team to guide and evaluate the direction of the plan.
 

Phase IV – Preparing and Completing the Plan. Based on previous phases, a draft plan was prepared and reviewed by DKI staff, the project team and the public at a second community forum. After refinements were made, the final plan was presented at a public meeting and adopted in spring of 2009.
 

Public Involvement

In keeping with Kalamazoo’s long-standing practice of continually reinventing itself as a leader in nationally recognized programs, products and services, the planning team set out to harness this attribute by designing a planning process, unique to Kalamazoo that fully engaged the general public as well as stakeholder groups.   While the process reviewed traditional comprehensive plan components, it also included non-traditional elements such as sustainable development and centers of excellence. A discussion of the public involvement process follows. A complete summary of the results is included as Appendix A.

State of the Downtown

Over 250 community members attended the kick-off of the community input process which took place at the State of the Downtown Address in February 2008. Audience members participated in the input process through an electronic automatic response system that allowed instant tabulation of their opinions, beliefs, values and behaviors relative to downtown. This information revealed specific topics of interest and a basis for conducting future focus group meetings.
 

Focus Group Meetings

Nine focus group meetings were conducted in the spring of 2008 to identify community values, guiding principles, strategic priorities and to develop a vision statement. Over 200 participants attended these sessions representing target groups which included:
 

  •  Neighborhood representatives
  •  Non-profit, institution and government representatives
  •  Property owners
  •  Residents
  •  Restaurant owners
  •  Retailers
  •  Students
Interviews of key downtown stakeholders were also conducted to discuss specific topics and obtain valuable insight about future downtown development opportunities. Throughout the focus group process, community values and guiding principles were reinforced, as listed under the heading “Community Vision Results” below. Additionally, implementation strategies were developed during the focus group meetings.
 

Community Forums

Two public meetings were held to present initial plan concepts and the draft plan in a “community fair” format. Following an introductory overview of the planning process and key areas of focus, the public had an opportunity to visit information stations for more in-depth discussions about elements of the plan. Nearly 200 people (representing a broad cross-section of downtown residents, property and business owners, non-profit organizations and members of the broader community) attended the sessions, held in late summer and early fall of 2008. Specific plan components – Visioning, Land Use & Development, Retail, Transportation, Parking, and Residential – were reviewed. 
 

Community Vision Results

The following community values, guiding principles, strategic priorities and vision elements are the foundation of this plan.

 

Community Values/Guiding Principles

  •  Friendly and welcoming to all
  •  Known as a safe and comfortable place.
  •  Easily accessible to all, particularly people with special needs.
  •  “Green,” environmentally responsible and sustainable.
  •  Aesthetically pleasing and beautiful.
  •  Cultivating a sense of pride and ownership in the community and its heritage.

Strategic Priorities

  •  Increase the number of affordable downtown residences.
  •  Continue to support and expand downtown retail opportunities.
  •  Build stronger relationships with the education community, including students.
  •  Improve traffic flow, ease of navigation and overall transportation facilities in and through the downtown.
  •  Leverage public/private partnerships to support economic development and job creation.
  •  Continue to support arts and culture.
 Implementation Strategies. Specific implementation strategies are detailed at the end of each chapter.
 

Vision Elements

Drawing from the hundreds of participants and the Project Team’s analysis of the cumulative input, the following six vision elements describe what is most important to the community as it works toward creating a healthy downtown and guiding the planning and implementation outcomes.
 
  • Accessible. Approachable, available, convenient, nearby and unrestricted.
  • Prosperous. Financially successful, well-off.
  • Diverse. Different, distinct, diversified and varied.
  • Green. Environmentally responsible/conscious.
  • Vibrant. Energetic, vigorous, exciting, lively and dynamic.
  • Progressive. Favoring change, improvement or reform.