Kalamazoo Mall celebrating 60 years as America’s 1st pedestrian mall

Posted at 9:00 PM, Aug 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-21 21:16:55-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Sixty years ago this week, Kalamazoo made national history. The Kalamazoo Mall opened to the public becoming the first pedestrian mall in the United States, said Andrew Haan president of the Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership.

“The mall really is the anchor for everything,” he said during an interview with FOX 17. “(It’s) kind of our hub where there’s always something for people in the community to come experience.”

Thousands of residents have been flocking to the mall to eat, shop and socialize since then. Haan said the mall was built in response to the creation of suburbs.

Cities were losing money and businesses as people moved away. So, the mall was Kalamazoo's solution to keep the money and energy in the city.

Soon after, other cities followed suit, he said. Last year, PBS designated it as one of the 10 streets that changed America.

“It’s our humble Kalamazoo Mall is held in the same esteem as Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles and Broadway in New York and Woodward Avenue in Detroit,” Haan said. “We made a pretty big mark on the country here in our modestly-sized Midwest town.”

And when the city decided in 1998 to add a driving lane down the middle of it, they were the first pedestrian mall to do so, Haan said. The lane stretched from Michigan Avenue to Lovell Street and was aptly called the “Kalamazoo Mall,” and more people flocked to the area.

“We always want to keep the mall fresh,” Haan said. “It’s a main, primary focus for us downtown and you know we’re always thinking what’s the next evolution’s going to be.”