KALAMAZOO — The 144-year-old building at 154 S. Kalamazoo Mall won’t look much like a fire station, a village hall or a department store soon.
You need a few years under your belt to envision it when it housed Athena Book Store, the Soup Kettle restaurant or The Sandwich Express.
Lana’s Couture relocated from the building months ago, and a final version of Sandwich Express closed.
Look for Catalyst Development Co., which acquired the property more than two years ago, to rehabilitate the location in the coming months for ground-floor retailing and second-story living.
“We want to create two fabulous retail spaces on the first floor,” said Patti Owens, managing director and vice president of Kalamazoo-based Catalyst. “We’re putting together some marketing now to try to attract really good retail tenants. That could include restaurants.
“We’re going to be building some really cool apartments upstairs.”
She said the 9,000-square-foot lower level of the property can accommodate two or three retailers, depending on the tenants. The second floor, which benefits from 27-foot-high ceilings, may accommodate up to five luxury apartments, some with two levels, and some with outdoor terraces and green roof space.
Kalamazoo-based Tower Pinkster has been hired to do architectural work on the project. But Catalyst is not saying how much it spent to acquire the property or how much it intends to spend to renovate it. Catalyst Development is one of the Greenleaf Cos., owned principally by William D. Johnston.
Owens said that although the building is very old, its facade and structure have been changed at least twice since then.
The structure started as “Quick To Rescue Hall,” a fire station that had three bays to hitch horses to fire wagons. Kalamazoo Village offices also were located there, accounting for the name “Corporation Hall.”
The building has had many tenants over the years, including a J.C. Penney Department store, which started leasing space there in 1925 until relocating farther south on the Kalamazoo Mall in the 1960s or ’70s.
Later is was home to Lew Hubbard’s men’s clothing store as well as MacArthur’s men’s clothing.
Of the retail ventures that Catalyst hopes to bring to the location, Owens said, “We want it to be something meaningful for the downtown residents and the downtown workers. We want to be able to provide services or stores that would serve them.”
The question she is asking: “What do people who want to live downtown need down here?”
Look for renovation work to begin in six to eight months.
“We’re going to build a building that will embody classic, timeless beauty that will last the next 100 years, utilizing sustainable design and construction means and methods,” Owens said.
Al Jones is business editor at the Kalamazoo Gazette. He can be reached at email@example.com or 269-388-8556.