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Firm plans $3M apartment project

July 21, 2015
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Firm plans $3M apartment project
The four-story Mall Plaza building stands in downtown Kalamazoo. Courtesy The Vernon Group

Matt Vernon bought an urban four-story building in the region with one mission in mind: change it.

Vernon, the owner of The Vernon Group in Kalamazoo, a development and property management firm, purchased the 72,000-square-foot Mall Plaza building in Kalamazoo, at 157 S. Kalamazoo Mall, last December through his Vernon Group LLC.

He’s now in the final planning and approval stages to perform a roughly $3-million renovation of the building, adding 28 apartments.

The building is a mixed-use space for retail and office: the lower level is office; the first level is retail; and the second, third and fourth levels are office, but vacant.

Vernon plans to convert about 60 percent of the retail and about 90 percent of the office spaces into apartments and private parking, as well as add a fifth floor. Apartments would be on floors two through five.

Vernon expects to get the final go ahead from the city in the next couple of weeks.

He expects to have the apartments opened by May 1 of 2016.

The Vernon Group would serve as contractor, while Byce & Associates in Kalamazoo and In-Form Architecture in Kalamazoo would also work on the project.

“We acquired the building knowing we would change the use,” Vernon said. “The whole idea of the project is to make every aspect of the building its best use. For right now, it’s been proven in the past that the building is not as efficient as it could be.

“When we’re finished, any office or retail space left will be fully occupied. And (the building) will do its part in the community to be a functioning aspect of the community, and that’s about all you can ask for a developer do their job."

The project would add one- and two-bedroom apartments between 790-1,350 square feet. The units would cost between $890-$1,280 a month, including one parking space.

Vernon said the layouts and the décor would be for single people, newlyweds without children and some empty nesters.

Vernon said there would be 4,000 square feet of office space facing west on the second floor, and there will be upwards of 10,000 square feet of retail on the first floor.

“Some of the retail tenants on the first floor, their leases are coming up, and they’ll be finding new spaces elsewhere when their leases find new term," Verson said. "And we’re moving quite a few of them into other buildings that we own or helping them move elsewhere.

“That’s an interesting part of the story, but I’m not going to speak to the fact of who’s staying and who’s going, because it’s unknown at this point. And to have respect for the tenant, I don’t want to speak for them.”

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