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WMU turns over vacant building, property to city of Kalamazoo

by Mark Schwerin

April 12, 2011 | WMU News

KALAMAZOO--A building just off Douglas Avenue that has been vacant for more than 20 years and the 12 acres of property upon which it sits will be turned over to the city of Kalamazoo, Western Michigan University trustees have decided.

Acting at their April 8 meeting, trustees voted to convey ownership to the city of the 12.4-acre parcel and the building known as the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital's Northwest Unit. The move clears the way for demolition of the building at 1501 Blakeslee St. through a grant received by the city and the Kalamazoo County Land Bank Authority from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. WMU will incur no cost for the demolition, but will serve as project manager on behalf of the city.

Transfer of the property title is necessary to obtain the demolition funds. An assessment by WMU officials has determined that, once the building is demolished, there is little use to the University for the property, as its topography limits construction possibilities.

The 45,000-square-foot Blakeslee Street building was originally constructed in 1954 as a tuberculosis sanitarium. Vacant since 1990, the property had become an eyesore and nuisance for the adjacent Fairmont neighborhood. WMU acquired the property in 1998 as part of an arrangement with the state for the University to assume ownership of Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital property on Oakland Drive.

The University has never used the property and has no plans to do so. WMU has, however, spent more than $100,000 to secure the property over the years, after the site had attracted the interest of trespassers, amateur photographers and filmmakers.