KALAMAZOO (WWJ) — In May, Kalamazoo Valley Community College announced a partnership with Bronson Healthcare and Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to develop a campus focused on wellness and food sustainability.
The project advanced this week with the selection of a downtown location where Kalamazoo Valley will expand its curriculum to include training in sustainable food production, distribution and preparation; all part of the college’s efforts to increase community understanding of and access to healthy food and nutrition.
“Working with our partners and multiple community groups, our goal will be to impact the health of our communities by providing the next generation of culinary and agriculture leaders with the skills and knowledge needed to work at the intersection of health, environmental, and social concerns,” said Kalamazoo Valley President Marilyn Schlack.
The new, $42 million campus will be developed on 13.3 acres of unused land donated by Bronson Healthcare. The property, near Bronson Methodist Hospital, includes 8.4 acres along Crosstown Parkway east of the City of Kalamazoo’s Crosstown Center, 3.6 acres between Walnut and Dutton Streets, and 1.3 acres north of Crosstown Parkway and south of Dutton Street.
Three facilities are planned. Kalamazoo Valley will develop one for food production and distribution, a second for nursing, allied health and culinary programs, and the third will be a new psychiatric clinic for KCMHSAS.
“We are very grateful to Bronson for its commitment to the project and for making such a wonderful location available to us in the heart of the community,” Schlack said.
“We believe this is the highest and best use of the land, the majority of which runs along Portage Creek and is not useful for hospital development,” said Bronson senior vice president Mike Way. “We look forward to having urban farming and production facilities nearby along with training programs. Bronson Methodist Hospital currently sources about 30 percent of food locally. This initiative could help us hit our goal of 50 percent or greater within just a few years.”
Acknowledging the well-established link between diet and health, Kalamazoo Valley has been actively engaged with others in developing new strategies and solutions to improve health indicators in the region, including obesity, diabetes, and pre and post cancer and mental health therapies.
“This collaborative venture is a very positive step toward a more healthy community that will provide a new state of the art psychiatric clinic along with opportunities for those we serve and the community as a whole,” said KCMHSAS CEO Jeff Patton. “Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is excited to be part of the healthy living campus initiative with Bronson Healthcare and Kalamazoo Valley Community College.”
“This is a great concept and we applaud Kalamazoo Valley for championing it in our community,” said Frank Sardone, president and CEO of Bronson Healthcare. “Being a partner in this initiative aligns with Bronson’s mission and values which include a commitment as a locally owned and managed organization, to help sustain the quality of life essential to a healthy regional community.”
Added Mike Collins, KVCC’s executive vice president of academic and student services: “In addition to the new buildings being planned, we envision the complete redevelopment of the property including landscaped walkways in an environmentally sensitive design which will support other activities in the area. Conversations are under way with the city of Kalamazoo regarding the city’s plans for improvements to the Bank Street Farmer’s Market, which will complement the project.”
Designs will be developed over the next several months and construction of the $42 million campus is expected to begin in spring of 2014 with initial course offerings becoming available during 2015, organizers said.