Cute small towns near Kalamazoo? (Lansing, Portage: apartment complex, rent, condos)
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My husband and I are moving from Lansing to the Kalamazoo area in December for school (I'll be at WMU, he'll be at KVCC) and, like most people, I have some questions about the area.
First and foremost, where to live! The facts:
-We're in our late 20s and trying to start a family, so we DO NOT want to live in a student-oriented area surrounded by 18-22 year olds. We prefer the "young professional" or "young family" vibe. Living near grad students is okay.
-We like historic "main street" downtowns and older homes - not subdivisions or new-built neighborhoods. The cuter and more walkable, the better.
-We want a "self-sufficient" town with at least 1 decent grocery store and some fast food chains mixed in with the local restaurants.
-Would love a town that has lots of festivals.
-Our max rent budget is $700 if heat is included, $550 if it's not. 1 or 2 bedrooms are fine, and so is a decent sized studio if absolutely necessary. Detached home, apartment, converted house - we don't have a preference as long as it's clean and in good condition.
-Schools for the future children aren't a factor at all. We're private-schooling or homeschooling them.
-A good farmers market is a huge bonus.
-If you can recommend a safe area (if I can't walk after dark, it isn't safe enough) in Kzoo proper, we'll definitely consider it. We don't mind the city at all. It's just that we've already lived in a pretty unsafe area of Lansing, and we're done with that scene.
-If you're familiar with Gaylord or Saint Johns, you have an idea of what we're looking for.
Our top choices for towns so far are Paw Paw and Three Rivers. Other considerations are Portage, Plainwell, Schoolcraft, and Vicksburg. Based on what I've said, will these fit our hopes? I'm open to other recommendations as well. We're willing to have a 30-35 minute commute for the right town. We're coming out in the next couple of weeks to explore, but don't want to waste time on an area that doesn't fit our needs. And it's always nice to hear local opinions
-Are there any infertility support groups in the area?
-What are some good natural/organic/health food stores? I'm on a restricted diet, so I need one within about 20-30 minute driving distance for some necessities.
-Landlord recommendations, if that's allowed on the forum? And landlords to avoid?
-My husband has a recent felony (non-violent, non-drug, non-sexual). Realistically, how much will this affect our home-search and his job-search? He doesn't look or act like a criminal - you'd never know he was a felon just by meeting him. Will people be willing to give him a chance?
-I'm not at all familiar with the nightlife in Kalamazoo. What's there to do for people who are too old for the college scene?
-Any film/food/music/etc. festivals that can't be missed?
Thanks in advance! If you need any clarification, let me know. Oh, and sorry this is so long!
One town that you didn't mention is Richland. It's my favorite small town near Kalamazoo (smaller than the others you mentioned). It's generally a pretty expensive area due to all of the money surrounding Gull Lake, but there is at least one apartment complex there, too. There's a nice grocery store in town and a couple of non-chain restaurants, but you are also 5 minutes away from a ton of stores and restaurants on Gull Road (the northeast outskirts of Kalamazoo). It's probably a 15-20 minute drive from downtown KZoo.
Thanks for your quick reply! I had thought of Richland but written it off as too small. Do they have a main street area? Wikipedia says something about it being a bedroom community, which usually means very little business and lots of subdivisions. The apartments look nice though, and the rent is right within budget
I'm in Paw Paw and it's a nice place if true small town is what you're looking for. No need to venture far for the necessities. I'm a business owner in the community and it's a nice place to live. DM me if you have any other questions.
Let me just say that Portage is great, but it definitely doesn't have the "main street" feel you're looking for. I'd consider Richland, Plainwell, Schoolcraft, or Vicksburg, myself. They all have local businesses but other shopping nearby. Paw Paw's not bad, Mattawan is mostly subdivisions, and Otsego doesn't impress me much.
And Sawall's in Kalamazoo is a pretty good health food store. Hope that helps!
esnox82: Thanks, that is definitely one of the towns I was hoping to hear about. As a business owner, you'd probably be familiar with the attitude of the people - are they pretty accepting of newcomers? Some towns aren't, even here in MI, so I was curious. We're hoping to come out tomorrow, is there somewhere/something we should make sure to put on our list of things to do?
northstar22: Those are all just a bit small for my liking, but I appreciate the suggestions! Sturgis was one of my top choices until I saw the length of the commute - an hour is a bit much, lol. But they do look like cute towns, and if I end up in Three Rivers, I'll probably be visiting them all the time (my husband and I love to drive around and explore little towns).
mackinac81: Hello! I'd heard that Portage is mostly suburban, but I wasn't sure if there was anything more to it. And thanks for the store recommendation!
Remisc: I do prefer small towns, but am open to downtown living. As I mentioned in my original post, I don't want to be around undergrads/parties and I *need* to feel safe enough to walk at night (my husband and I share a car, so walkability is important). I'm terrified of unsafe neighborhoods, as we've had problems in the past. Is there a particular street or neighborhood that would feel very safe? I will definitely check it out!
Some good suggestions. I grew up in Mattawan and still live here (23 years old). It is west of Kalamazoo. Oshtemo is between Mattawan and Kalamazoo. And then Paw Paw is west of Mattawan. There is a lot of new(er) subdivisions that are going up in our farm land (sad as my family farms). Though its not like Iowa or anywhere where you can see open land for miles (I wish). The town itself is small (called a village). They are developing a new plaza right in the "downtown" (some restaurants/shopping/condos), but it will be a few years before its somewhat done. I like it as I can get away from Kalamazoo, but still be close to it for festivals and the downtown environment. Texas Corners (south of Kalamazoo, right behind KVCC campus (the one on West O, not the dowtown)), has a excellent farmers market. Mattawan doesn't have a fast food resturant, but we have Main St. Pub, Mancinos Pizza, East Egg (in new plaza), Chin Chin (Best Asian Food). If you want Fast Food (Wendys, MCD, Arbys, etc) you can go to Oshtemo, Paw Paw or go to West Main St where there is "a lot" of eating places. Yeah I am just rambling now, lol.
Plainwell or Otsego might fit your needs. Both are about a 20 min. commute to WMU. There are also a lot of nice neighborhoods in Kalamazoo. I would suggest Milwood S.E. or Oakwood S.W. side of town. Downtown Kalamazoo is very walkable with lots of festivals all summer long. Bronson Park which is smack dab in the middle of downtown is a very nice place for a stroll.
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