EDITORIAL: City commission made the popular decision, so enjoy Kaya in its current location while you can


For now, Kaya Coffee House will remain in its current location in the SBX Bookstore building.

That's good news. 

The future of the business, however, is still undecided.

Rick McGuirk, a Mount Pleasant developer, was set to purchase the mostly vacant property at 1029 S. Bellows St. from owner Brad Ballein and his business partner John Belco. 

The building, which also houses Kaya, has been for sale since the SBX went out of business in 2014. McGuirk intended to demolish the building to build a housing development. The deal hinged on the condition the city rezoned the property for residential use.

The Planning Commission gave its OK, but a 4-3 vote by the Mount Pleasant City Commission on Monday stopped the proposed rezoning. 

For city commissioners, voting no was the easy decision, but it was not the pragmatic one. 

Kaya is a popular hangout for both Central Michigan University students and community members. Their emotional attachment to Kaya showed in the large support their coffee shop received before and during Monday’s public hearing. For many Kaya supporters, this became a matter of Kaya vs. McGuirk and United Apartments — the little guy vs. the big guy.

Standing up for everyone's favorite little coffee shop and fighting a big-name student housing company will be a selling point for crusading commissioners during election season. However, those commissioners missed an opportunity to find a solution for an eyesore on one of CMU’s main corridors.

The more than 50-year-old structure has not attracted potential tenants since the SBX closed. It needs extensive remodeling in order to suit a tenant. The area north of Bellows Street and south of High Street has proven to be a tough place for businesses to flourish.

The mostly vacant SBX building is a blight right across from iconic Warriner Hall and the C seal. As campus tours with prospective students walk through Warriner Mall, the abandoned building looms just across the street. 

Other than McGuirk, the building has generated little interest from perspective buyers, according to Belco and his real estate agent.

Voting to rezone the land would have been a positive step to reshape the Bellows Street corridor while fulfilling the city’s long-term goal of keeping as many students as possible living south of High Street and out of historic homes near downtown.

It was time for a change on Bellows Street. The city commission thought otherwise.

With the city undergoing a complete makeover of its zoning ordinance, some commissioners thought it would be counterintuitive to rezone this lone parcel of land before the rest of the city is rezoned. 

It is a legitimate concern.  

Time will tell who is correct.

Regardless, Kaya owners Emily Miller and Abigail Chambers potentially face eviction once their lease agreement expires. 

What happens to the business after that remains a question.

For now, Kaya stays alive. We could not be more happy for them. 

The rest of the SBX building remains an eyesore. We could not be more disappointed the property won't be redeveloped anytime soon. 

This decision is popular, but simply prolongs Kaya's inevitable removal from its current location.

So enjoy Kaya, at this location, while you can.