Monroe Center area is the historic core of the Grand Rapids central business district and the heart of the city today. Separate developments carried out by two of Grand Rapids' earliest settlers and landowners resulted in the distinctive angled street plan of the Monroe Center area. Louis Campau established a trading post and built a log house at an Indian campsite on the east bank of the Grand River in 1827. In 1831 he acquired seventy-two acres of land in the area bounded by present-day Michigan and Fulton streets, Division Avenue, and the river. Meanwhile, Lucius Lyon had purchased land surrounding Campau's in 1832 and then acquired the land owned by Campau north of the line between present-day Lyon and Pearl streets. Lyon oriented his streets north of this line to the compass point, while Campau laid out his streets at a 45-degree angle. The two units remained unconnected except at Division Avenue until the 1870s, when Monroe Avenue was extended to Canal Street. The misalignment of Monroe and Canal (now Monroe) was corrected in 1873 with the creation of Campau Square in front of the later McKay Tower ( KT7).
Early generations of frame buildings were destroyed by fire or demolished to make way for sturdier brick structures. The area grew substantially in the 1860s and 1870s, as evidenced in the Ledyard building ( KT8). Growth continued into the early twentieth century. New skyscrapers—the McKay Tower ( KT7) and 77 Monroe Center, formerly the Michigan National Bank ( KT10)—were built in the 1920s. Monroe Avenue was converted to a pedestrian mall in 1970. Redevelopment in the riverfront area south of Pearl Street in the early 1980s brought some interesting Postmodern architecture ( KT11), a LEED-rated building in the first decade of the twentieth century ( KT6), and in 2005–2007 the elegant steel and glass J. W. Marriott Hotel by Goettsch Partners (235 Louis Campau Promenade NW).