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Historic church in Kalamazoo to transform into performing arts center and innovation hub

May 4, 2023

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A historic landmark near downtown Kalamazoo is expected to receive a big transformation.

The First Baptist Church will soon transform into a performing arts center and entrepreneurial incubator, according to the Kalamazoo Nonprofit Advocacy Coalition, or KNAC.

Built in 1855, the First Baptist Church is Kalamazoo’s oldest public building, and remains the only surviving structure that Abraham Lincoln would have seen when he spoke in Bronson Park in 1856, officials said.

The project comes through KNAC’s Inspire Campaign, an $11 million plan that looks to preserve the 30,000 square foot building and renovate envision workspaces and incubators for small and growing nonprofits in arts and social justices, officials said.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to preserve one of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in downtown Kalamazoo,” Ann Fergemann, retired Philanthropic Advisor at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, said. “When our work is done, we’ll have an improved home for up to 60 fledgling nonprofits and for-profits that enrich our community.”

Once renovations are complete, KNAC envisions:

A multi-venue performing arts center featuring a world-class, 450-seat performance hall.

Dynamic office and shared workspaces that will serve as incubators for small but growing arts and social justice nonprofits, along with for-profit entrepreneurs and innovators.

Complete preservation of one of downtown Kalamazoo’s most historic and beautiful buildings.

During the presentation at Thursday’s event, multiple board members from KNAC spoke about the exciting future of First Baptist Church.

“Thanks to your support, the historic and beautiful former First Baptist Church building is being transformed into a performing arts center and innovation hub, that will have a far reaching and long-lasting impact on our community for generations to come,” KNAC Board Member, Qianna Decker said.

The Kalamazoo Nonprofit Advocacy Coalition also held a free community concert after the event, welcoming the public.

Thanks to support from local and regional foundations, area businesses, and community donors, KNAC surpassed their $2 million goal and raised $2.6 million, according to KNAC.

As of Friday, KNAC revised their goal to $3 million because of rising construction costs due to inflation, officials said.

However, KNAC is confident they will receive $8 million in public funding to make the renovations a reality, organizers said.

“This is an exceptional opportunity for our community to invest in the vitality of our downtown,” Campaign Co-Chair of KNAC, Jeff K. Ross said. “If we can provide collaborative space to these growing organizations, we know our community will benefit for years to come.”

More information on the mission and goal of KNAC can be found online.

Read the full Historic church in Kalamazoo to transform into performing arts center and innovation hub article here.

Posted in News

Image of KNAC's Performance Hall

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