The Foundations for Excellence is a philanthropic project in which private investors have promised a $70 million gift to the City of Kalamazoo, a number Mayor Bobby Hopewell and his team hopes will grow to as much as $500 million dollars by the year 2025. The project will be used to fund programs throughout the city determined by the public.
The Foundations for Excellence is what Mayor Bobby Hopewell has described as a “private-public partnership” between the City of Kalamazoo and benefactors in the private sector, namely William Parfet, former head of MPI Research Co. and William Johnston, head of Greenleaf Cos.
“We are the home of significant philanthropy happening in this city, and in weird and quirky ways, some might say,” said Mayor Hopewell. “We have civic theaters, we have parks, we have art institutes, [sic] all kinds of things certainly because of the historical involvement of philanthropy.”
The primary aims of the project include stabilizing the city’s budget to eliminate the $3 million deficit and lowering the municipal property tax from 19% to 12%. While the mayor emphasizes that these are the first priorities for his team, the remainder of the funds will go towards the aspirations of the Kalamazoo community.
The major, long-term programs and projects will be envisioned by Imagine Kalamazoo, an association of community leaders and city planners with the input of community members. Mayor Hopewell urges young people and students to partake in Imagine Kalamazoo’s community outreach events and to contribute their voices to the city’s strategic plan.
“There are large community engagements and small group meetings students can have on campus, but imaginekalamazoo.com has all of the information students need to get involved,” said Hopewell.
Environmental sustainability, public transportation, and economic success are just a few of the issues Imagine Kalamazoo is meant to approach. Members of the community are invited to offer creative ideas at meetings until the City Commission makes the final allocation decisions beginning later this year.
Upcoming Imagine Kalamazoo events include a meeting at the Western Michigan University Office of Sustainability on Thursday, February 16 from 6:00-7:30 PM, St. Mary’s Church on Wednesday, February 22 from 5:30-7:00 PM, and Parkwood-Upjohn Elementary on Tuesday, February 28 from 6:30-7:00 PM. Directions to upcoming events are available online at imaginekalamazoo.com/events.
“We can think big and we can try new things,” Mayor Hopewell said. “We have to start thinking as mighty and as big as we believe we are.”