A Community Anchor with Renewed Purpose
Located at 315 W. Michigan Avenue, construction of the Kalamazoo First Baptist Church building began in 1853. Completed in 1855, it is the oldest church and the oldest public building in Kalamazoo.
The structure has been central to the downtown region for nearly 170 years and is one of the few surviving buildings that Abraham Lincoln would have seen when he spoke in Bronson Park in 1856.
In addition to serving as the home for First Baptist’s congregation, the building’s long history includes providing space for and helping to birth well-known community organizations such as Kalamazoo College, the Ladies’ Library Association, Can-Do Kalamazoo, and Kalamazoo RESA Head Start.
Today, the magnificent white structure boasts approximately 30,000 square feet, including sanctuary space capable of seating 450, offices, event and meeting rooms, studios, and workshop areas.
In 2017, church leadership determined that the best way to respond to the declining membership and extensive building costs was to rent space to community groups. This was a way for the historic structure to continue serving the community.
During this same period, the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Advocacy Coalition (KNAC) was formed by local artists, musicians, and community members with a vision of turning the building into an affordable, cooperative-use space for nonprofit organizations dedicated to the arts or alleviating poverty and discrimination in the community.
After extensive discussion, planning, and careful deliberation, the church facility was gifted to KNAC in 2021.
As the new owners, KNAC set a Phase One goal of raising $280,000 to address urgent repairs and life-safety updates to bring the building up to code. These updates included improvements to the roof, addition of emergency lighting, and other essential amenities.
By the end of 2021, KNAC raised $320,000 to surpass its Phase One goal and has completed all Phase One projects.
In 2022, KNAC launched its Inspire Access to Arts and Innovation $7-million capital campaign. The success of this campaign will result in a fully accessible, comfortable, safe, and sustainable building. A true gift to the community.