On August 19, 1959, more than 50,000 shoppers helped dedicate the nation's first permanent outdoor pedestrian downtown mall, known simply as Kalamazoo Mall. Responding to traffic snarls, lack of parking, and competing strip development along highways on the outskirts of the city, the downtown merchants assessed themselves with $40,000 to hire Victor Gruen Associates to draw a plan to revitalize the city. Gruen proposed a one-way peripheral auto loop around the downtown, strategically placed parking lots, and the conversion of streets inside the loop into pedestrian malls. The plan was partially executed. Two blocks of Burdick Street, between Water and South streets, were closed to traffic and replaced by pedestrian malls in the first stage of the plan. The city and the merchants shared the cost of the mall. Merchants refurbished their own storefronts to create the architectural look of the 1960s. In 1960 the mall was extended one block north, and in 1973, it was extended one block south. Gruen's vision of a solution for the problem of urban centers seemed to stand as proof of his creative imagination: the city has been restored to the people. In 1998, in an attempt to give new life to downtown Kalamazoo, the city opened Burdick Street to low-speed vehicular traffic.
You are here
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.