Law Firm Miller Canfield is helping businesses leverage Kalamazoo’s explosive growth.
From her office, Danielle Mason Anderson has a great view of the three construction cranes that took up residence in Kalamazoo’s central city last year. The cranes are evidence of massive commercial development underway, and Anderson can envision the impact it will have on the city she grew up in and returned to after completing her education.
Anderson is principal attorney, managing director, and resident director at Miller Canfield, a 220-lawyer firm. The building that houses its Kalamazoo office, 277 South Rose Street, was one of the last downtown commercial construction projects completed before the Great Recession brought new development in most Michigan cities to a halt. But that’s all changing as the city undergoes impressive and much-welcomed growth.
Construction and redevelopment of three major mixed-use buildings in Kalamazoo is planned for later this year. These projects, which represent more than $140 million of combined investment, will add more than 300 new residential units and tens of thousands of square feet of new commercial real estate to Kalamazoo’s downtown.
Businesses are leveraging the once-in-a-generation opportunity that the massive development and investment are creating. There has been a surge in plans for new grocery stores in the central city, which has been described as the fastest-growing residential neighborhood in Kalamazoo. The Michigan Strategic Fund recently approved more than $10 million in funding for a $44 million hotel project downtown, which will redevelop the historic Rose Street Market building. And a proposal has been and remains in play to build a $110 million downtown event center.
“Kalamazoo will have a whole new community of 24/7 residents who will change the character of the downtown,” Anderson said. “Our business district has been home to a daytime population of workers and professionals. But full-time residents require a host of other services, like more banking, entertainment, shopping, and health care. They need emergency services and quality-of-life features like parks, footpaths, and bike lanes.”
Situated halfway between two of the Midwest’s great cities, Detroit and Chicago, Kalamazoo boasts a diverse and educated workforce, an active cultural community, and three college and university campuses.
Anderson has always had a deep love for Kalamazoo, its history, and its potential. For much of her career, she has not only been one of the city’s greatest cheerleaders but has also invested her time and talents into shaping its evolution. She served as a board member on the Kalamazoo Economic Development Corporation Board/Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and currently serves on the boards for both the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and Southwest Michigan First, the economic development organization focused on supporting business, job growth, and entrepreneurship in the greater Kalamazoo area.
Her colleagues at Miller Canfield are similarly committed to the Kalamazoo area, investing in pro bono and volunteer service at organizations like the United Way, the American Red Cross of Southwest Michigan, the Kalamazoo Humane Society, OutFront Kalamazoo, and the Downtown Kalamazoo Partnership.
Anderson is thrilled that she and the firm have been and will continue to be a part of the Kalamazoo’s renaissance.
Her firm is already enjoying opportunities afforded by the growth of the city. Miller Canfield’s robust Corporate Group has been well-positioned to help new businesses with business formation matters, leasing, and contracts. Similarly, the firm has invested in serving employers by expanding its immigration and employment practices. With one of the largest Financial Services practices in the state, Anderson and her colleagues have been busy structuring deals and counseling clients about tax credits and other financial matters that arise as businesses start or expand in a new area.
“Every area of services that new businesses need so they can serve this residential boom—real estate, employment and labor, financial services, manufacturing, commercial lending, municipal, and public-sector law—are areas where we already have bench strength and a strong infrastructure to build on,” Anderson said. “The firm is enjoying this growth as much as any of our neighbors in the business community.”
As Kalamazoo’s transformation takes shape, Anderson sees a vibrant Kalamazoo of the future where there are ample opportunities to live, work, and play. The downtown growth has also helped attract professionals in her field to the city, she added.
“It’s no secret that attorneys and young professionals are looking for downtown living options. They like having activities and services and the opportunity to live and work in a full-service, walkable, auto-optional downtown,” Anderson said. “That’s what we can offer. They want to move to the next cool city, and Kalamazoo is it!”