25 Apr DR. PATRICK’S POSTCARD ROADSIDE: Kalamazoo Mall
Enclosed shopping mall maker Victor Gruen also designed downtown pedestrian malls, the first one in the country created for Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1959.
Two blocks of Burdick Street were closed and reconstructed with mall-like street furniture, water features, flower beds, trees and grass in an effort to reinvigorate a retail district actively being siphoned off to the suburbs. It worked for a while, or maybe in 1959 retail suburbanization was not yet as bad as it would become, and the downtown pedestrian mall idea spread across the country. In the end, it did not save downtown. The Modernist facades of Kalamazoo’s Woolworth and W.T. Grants would be their final wrapper. Grants closed in 1976 and Woolworth in 1997. The Kalamazoo Mall was expanded to four blocks in 1960, then five in 1975, but the continued retail loss facilitated the reopening of three blocks in 1998.