KALAMAZOO, MI — When YWCA CEO Grace Lubwama moved to Kalamazoo five years ago she immediately saw the need for more childcare because she herself couldn’t find a daycare without a waitlist.
“Even as a chief executive I couldn’t find childcare,” she said. “I couldn’t even get my kids in the [YWCA] Children’s Center and I run the center.” This year, the waitlist garnered 200 names, she said. “If it’s a choice between my child and my work, then I choose my children,” she said. “If my children are not safe I cannot be successful.”
Lubwama’s vision for more affordable childcare intersected with developer Matt Hollander’s vision for affordable housing. With financial support from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the 48 mixed-income apartment development with a childcare facility made headway in Kalamazoo’s Edison Neighborhood.
On Thursday, June 27, developers broke ground on The Creamery project at 1101 Portage St. Construction of the $14.7M mixed-use development is estimated to take 12 to 16 months. Construction planned in Edison Neighborhood Child care center, 48 apartments planned in $14M Kalamazoo development
The site is currently empty. The on-site childcare facility will be an expansion of the YWCA’s Children’s Center, not a replacement. It will be Kalamazoo’s first 24-hour childcare facility, Lubwama said, offering childcare services 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Apartment rents in the new building will be based on unit style and household income. Additionally, 15 one-bedroom units are designated for lower income families priced under $400 per month.
The property is the former home of the Klovergold Creamery, on the site that housed City Union Brewery in the late 1800s through the early 1900s, according to the book “Kalamazoo Lost & Found” by Lynn Smith Houghton and Pamela Hall O’Connor. The creamery moved into the complex around 1920 and closed almost 80 years later in 1997, according to the book. Rates for weekly childcare in the new building will remain the same as at the YWCA’s Children’s Center downtown, and range from $190 to $220 per week based on the age of the child.
However, the YWCA did not want cost to be another barrier between parents and quality childcare, Lubwama said. Similar to the downtown facility, the Edison location will offer transportation and free tuition to those who can’t afford it. “The things we desire for our own children is what we should desire for all children in the community,” she said.
In addition to the developmental and education-based childcare that runs from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., the Edison facility will also offer two-hour drop-in sessions intended for doctor’s appointments, court dates or other meetings, Lubwama said. A full-time family advocate will also be present at the childcare facility to help direct clients to YWCA and other community resources for families affected by poverty, violence or other individual needs.
The newest component at the new facility will be services for parents working the second or third shift. The facility will care for children anywhere from infancy to 12 years old. An additional 35 part-time and full-time employees will join the 40 workers already employed at the Children’s Center downtown. The nonprofit will also be accepting and training volunteers to help the facility remain open 24 hours.
Working to adjust within the “shift economy” was a commitment to Kalamazoo’s working poor, Lubwama said. “The passion is to ensure that this community belongs to everyone and not just a select few,” she said. When involved in an abusive relationship, women often cite their children as a reason they can’t leave their partner, Lubwama said. In 2018, YWCA Kalamazoo provided shelter to 399 adults and 636 children, according to its website. Nationally, a child witnessed violence in 22% of intimate partner violence cases filed in state courts, according to Office of Justice statistics used by the National Domestic Violence Hotline. In Kalamazoo, the YWCA’s 24- hour domestic violence hotline can be reached at 269-385-3587. The YWCA’s 24-hour sexual assault hotline can be reached at 269-385-3587.