Black Wall Street among owners of revitalized Washington Square properties
KALAMAZOO, MI – A part of town that was known to be home to a strip club and an adult bookstore is now home to a variety of businesses, including restaurants, a cupcake shop, and a winery.
The Kalamazoo County Land Bank Authority recently announced that the Washington Square properties, located in the Edison neighborhood, are now fully occupied by businesses currently in operation or about to open.
In addition to Washington Square’s already established businesses – which include Tremolo Instruments, Community Promise Credit Union, and Kzoo Nutrition – the neighborhood is now home to several other new businesses.
Black Wall Street is the new owner of 1311 Portage St., home to the recently opened Twine the Urban Winery, which represents Michigan’s first black female-owned vineyard, the land bank said in a press release.
Washington Square is also home to Ty’s Joint, a southern restaurant at 1301 Portage St., Layla’s Cool Pops, 1336 Portage St., and KPEP’s W&P Diner soon to open across the street at 3100. Portage St., states press releases.
“It’s amazing what’s going on in Washington Square right now,” said Tammy Taylor, director of the Edison Neighborhood Association. “It took a long time for this to be the adult business district to turn it into a truly vibrant, family-friendly shopping area. As a neighborhood, we are strong on diversity.
“Having Black Wall Street there is great,” Taylor said. “Just awesome.”
Black Wall Street Kalamazoo strives to increase awareness and visibility of black businesses in the community, according to the group’s website.
“Our mission is to be a collaborative initiative aimed at strategically increasing the lifespan of the African American dollar within the African American community, through social, marketing and educational experiences,” the website states. group. “Work collaboratively with the local community as well as with national organizations to support their mission, share, collect and harness resources for the benefit and empowerment of the African American community. “
“Family-family” and “diversity” were top qualities on residents’ wish lists for the resurgence of Washington Square, which over the years has seen many incarnations and has been the subject of many vision sessions and workshops. community, said the land bank. With the goal of a sustainable, vibrant and community-driven commercial district, the Land Bank has worked closely with El Concilio and ENA to partner with block-wide events to provide a welcoming space and inclusive to residents to enjoy and shape the future of Washington Square. , said the land bank.
Thanks to the information from residents, the land bank raised funds to improve the spaces and launched a tenant incubation program whose objective was to attract small businesses that reflect the diversity of the neighborhoods and commit to actively participate. to the efforts of the islet to achieve sustainable occupation. , according to the press release.
Women, resident and Latinx-owned tenants have joined the program over the years and have been able to occupy spaces, grow their businesses and support neighborhood goals.
“When Land Bank acquired the Washington Square property, they contacted us to help with tenant recruitment efforts. They also started the important fundraising work to renovate the spaces and invest to ensure that they could be used for different community businesses, ”said Adrian Vazquez, director of El Concilio. “In the last five years there has been more activity.”
The neighborhood is welcoming to walk around and is a source of pride for the neighborhood, he said.
In January, Nicole Triplett opened Twine the Urban Winery by the Roche Collection, which will market its wines in October in 250 Meijer stores.
She said COVID gave new business owners like her the time and support to work on her business dreams.
“Kalamazoo has been very supportive of the idea of an urban vineyard in the Washington Square neighborhood,” said Triplett. “One of the most valuable things about the location is that Kalamazoo is ready to support the region again to see it grow and go somewhere that might be outside of their comfort zones.”
She added, “The Land Bank recognizes the need to make financially sound community-based decisions and how best to prepare the community for success. “
Black Wall Street Kalamazoo has purchased 1311 Portage St. – which is home to Twine, Kzoo Nutrition, and Community Promise Credit Union – and will take a year to study how to use best practices for using commercial property, Triplett said.
Triplett is also the founder of Black Wall Street Kalamazoo.
“We want to use the property in the most beneficial way for owners of minority businesses, with a focus on the black entrepreneur who has the most difficulties within the community of Kalamazoo”, a- she declared. “We want to establish strategic partnerships with other organizations and private foundations to provide this support. “
Tyrone Griffis, who recently purchased 1301 Portage St., the former location of Pho on the Block, reopened the storefront as Ty’s Joint, a restaurant offering Southern-style cuisine.
“Ty is awesome, his staff are lovely and the food is absolutely amazing,” Taylor said.
Across the street, KPEP’s highly anticipated W&P Diner, named to reflect Washington and Portage and with a nod to its first business, W&P Café, is set to open in September after de many unexpected delays due to COVID-19.
Dinner will include traditional dishes, as well as rooms available for rent.
Layla’s Cool Pops is also now open in Washington Square, a business started by young entrepreneur Layla, whose sweet baking business was inspired by a fourth-year economy project.
Located at 1336 Portage Street, Layla’s is a non-profit organization that supports its Sweets4Homelessness initiative, designed to work with local community organizations committed to providing financial support for the purchase of homes. Products can be purchased online at https://laylascoolpops.com/.
To increase outdoor dining options, the aisle between W&P Diner and Layla’s Cool Pops is also undergoing renovations, including painting, landscaping and lighting.
“We are delighted to see Black Wall Street, Nicole Triplett and Tyrone Griffis as new entrepreneurs in Washington Square partner with us to take over and become owners of two key buildings,” said Kelly Clarke, Executive Director of Land Bank. “Since we began our work in Washington Square, our desire has always been to advance Residents’ Goals and enable the creation of a Resident Vision.
The recent sale of landholdings marks a milestone for Washington Square as the community struggled to attract business to the area since the former Deja Vu strip club and associated adult bookstore on Portage Street were relocated via a community effort in 2005, the land bank mentioned.
Related: The relocation of the strip club did not stimulate the revival of the Edison district of Kalamazoo
After this move, more than half of the buildings in the block remained vacant. The Great Recession exacerbated the challenges of attracting tenants as well as a number of real estate needs. The county land bank took over ownership at the request of the community in 2013 to work alongside the community to secure occupation of several vacant buildings.
“Our goal was to approach the effort in a way that the transformation was fair and served the desires of the neighborhood,” Clarke said. “The two new owners and business ventures are a perfect fit for a neighborhood so proud to be the city’s most diverse neighborhood. “
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