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$11M campaign to renovate 1855 Kalamazoo church launched by nonprofit

May 5, 2023

KALAMAZOO, MI — The Kalamazoo Nonprofit Advocacy Coalition has launched an $11 million fundraising campaign to preserve and renovate one of the city’s oldest public buildings.

Coalition leaders announced the campaign on Thursday, May 4, at the longtime home of the First Baptist Church in downtown Kalamazoo, 315 W. Michigan Ave.

The church, which continues to hold services in the upstairs sanctuary, officially gifted the building to the coalition in 2021.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to preserve one of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in downtown Kalamazoo,” said Ann Fergemann, campaign co-chair and retired philanthropic advisor at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. “We’re so grateful to the First Baptist congregation for this wonderful gift. When our work is done, we’ll have an improved home for up to 60 fledgling nonprofits and for-profits that enrich our community.”

In recent years, the building has started transforming into a performing arts center and entrepreneurial incubator as the home of the coalition.

The process began in 2017 when a group of artists, musicians, church staff, community members and community activists formed the coalition.

The group has worked with the church to turn the facility into an affordable, cooperative-use space for nonprofit organizations dedicated to arts, alleviating poverty and reducing discrimination.

The coalition has also welcomed for-profit entrepreneurs looking to establish themselves in Kalamazoo, with an emphasis on BIPOC and women-led businesses in creative fields, such as Room 35. About 50% of businesses are owned or operated by BIPOC people, and about 50% are owned or operated by women, coalition board president Dann Sytsma said.

Some current tenants include Crawlspace Comedy Theatre, Tye Chua Dance, Queer Theatre Kalamazoo, Uplift Kalamazoo, All Ears Theatre, NowKalamazoo, Huey D’s Goodies and the First Baptist Church.

About $2.6 million in seed money has already been raised via local and regional foundations, area businesses and generous community donors, Fergemann added. That leaves $8.4 million still to be raised.

“It all goes without saying that we do, in fact, welcome gifts of all sizes to this endeavor. No gift is too small and no gift is too large,” said Jeff Ross, co-chair of the campaign committee.

The downtown building includes offices, event and meeting rooms, two theaters, studios and the performance hall. The $11 million will allow the coalition to install an elevator, add a coworking space and improve safety features.

Thursday’s announcement included a free concert in the building’s 450-person performance hall, featuring local musicians Barry Ross, Alexander Bosak, Kemar Williams, Marcell Whitfield, Ivan Tai, JJ Treadway and Cindy Hunter.

Jeff Ross said the performance hall has him most excited. Quite a few organizations have already expressed interest in the space.

“We can envision this single building drawing thousands of Southwest Michigan residents to the heart of downtown Kalamazoo to dine, shop and enjoy world-class musical or artistic performances,” he said. “This is an exceptional opportunity for our community to invest in the vitality of our downtown.”

Interested donors can support the campaign by visiting or by contacting Elise Ripmaster at

Watch this video for a history of the church and the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Advocacy Coalition.

Read the full $11M campaign to renovate 1855 Kalamazoo church launched by nonprofit article here.

Posted in News

KNAC Performance Hall Image

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