Street Talk: Kentwood wraps up new master plan

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Following planning and community engagement efforts spanning more than three years, the city of Kentwood has adopted an updated Master Plan that serves as the city’s long-range vision for growth, land use, development and open space conservation.

The Master Plan features goals, policies and recommended actions to guide land-use decisions over the next 20 years. The forward-looking development plan considers the long-range goals and desires of residents and property owners as well as local, regional and market trends. It was adopted by the Planning Commission and then accepted by the City Commission.

“The Master Plan update process is key to ensuring the detailed visionary planning for Kentwood’s future development in all sectors as our community grows,” Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley said. “Many people have spent countless hours to ensure Kentwood’s Master Plan is a comprehensive guide for growth and conservation decisions while preserving and improving Kentwood’s excellent quality of life.”

The Master Plan is reviewed at least every five years and modified and updated as deemed necessary by the Planning Commission. The update process goal is to plan for new population growth and redevelopment while protecting key environmental features, creating sustainable economic opportunities and providing public services.

The city’s efforts for the latest Master Plan update began in October 2017. That’s when the Planning Commission voted to start the process to amend the Master Plan, citing improvements in the economy, an end to the housing/mortgage crises, implementation of the Form-Based Code — a land development regulatory tool — along South Division Avenue and incorporation of the Silver Line bus rapid transit service along the Division Avenue corridor.

Planning department staff and the Planning Commission identified leading issues, trends and changes that affected the community since the last update in 2012 and gave consideration to future anticipated growth in proposing changes to the Master Plan.

Last summer, the city sought public input through Plan Kentwood, a community engagement series that consisted of five opportunities for residents and other stakeholders to learn about and share their thoughts on proposed changes during different events throughout Kentwood.

Changes from the 2012 plan impact policies and principles for all development in the city as well as recommendations related to undeveloped land and redeveloping land. Community engagement discussions focused on changes related to a few areas that required particular attention:

  • Section 13, 263 acres of open land between 28th and 36th streets, Patterson Avenue and East Paris Avenue
  • Section 34, a 480-acre area between 52nd and 60th streets, the Princeton Estates plat and Wing Avenue
  • 28th and 29th Street commercial corridor
  • Division Avenue corridor

The update process also included reevaluation of plans for the Eastern Avenue and 52nd Street, city campus and Kalamazoo Avenue corridor subareas.

A public comment period on the draft plan was offered this summer, which allowed for feedback to be submitted online, over the phone, via email and by mail. A virtual work session and a public hearing in the fall enabled stakeholders to further review and provide feedback.

“We are delighted to celebrate the completion of the Master Plan update,” Community Development Director Terry Schweitzer said. “It serves an important role in guiding our decisions as we remain committed to the community’s vision for the city.

“Significant time and valuable engagement with residents, businesses and property owners has led to this plan’s adoption. We are grateful to all those who shared input and contributed to this critical review process.”

The Planning Commission adopted the 2020 Master Plan on Tuesday, Sept. 8, and then presented it to the City Commission on Tuesday, Oct. 20, for acceptance. The updated plan and its associated documents are available on the city’s website at kentwood.us/PlanKentwood.

Concrete plan

The $80-million Mill at Vicksburg project made another significant move in its commitment to sustainable redevelopment.

The project recently brought in a giant grinder machine to help crush 10,000 tons of concrete down to 3/8-inch-diameter pebbles that will be used as foundation to construct miles of parking areas, roads, trails and sidewalks on the 80-acre property in the Kalamazoo County village of Vicksburg.

The move to recycle the product eliminates the need to have about 500 dump-truck loads to haul the 7,143 cubic yards of waste to landfills. The equipment will be on-site for the next few weeks.

This most recent sustainability effort follows the incident of environmental researchers finding rare and endangered snuffbox mussels in the sections of Portage Creek adjacent to the worksite. The team is evaluating this situation and providing guidance on how best to improve the habitat for the conservation of the snuffbox mussel and other species in the creek.

Lead developer and Vicksburg native Chris Moore instructed development team members to do everything possible maintain the habitat.

The Mill also partnered with the folks of Vicksburg Schools to plant a variety of pollinator plants in the 20 acres of vacant land at The Mill. This school year, Vicksburg students got the opportunity to work hands-on in the field to learn about the importance of pollinators to the local communities and beyond.

When complete, the 369,711-square-foot Mill at Vicksburg will feature a variety of elements: a 40-room hotel; 40 apartments; 274,192 square feet of commercial space that will include a brewery and craft beverage area with public viewing; a museum; hop and malt processing; offices; educational facilities; retail space; and 24,573 square feet of indoor event space, the Business Journal reported in 2019.

The mill began operation in the early 1900s and produced paper products under multiple owners until its closure in 2001, according to a previous Business Journal report.

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