Forward Focus: Growing Michigan Avenue


    Looking south over downtown Kalamazoo from the top of the Exchange Tower. (WWMT)

    Traffic headaches

    Every time an 18-wheeler barrels down Michigan Avenue through downtown Kalamazoo, windows rattle and so do nerves.

    "The truck traffic! You're in a building down there and you feel the building vibrate," said Jim Ritsema, Kalamazoo's city manager.

    One idea to calm traffic on downtown's busiest thoroughfare is to turn this decades-old, one-way street into a two-way route.

    Renee Newman of Discover Kalamazoo said the one-way street should be two-way traffic, to keep people from flying through the downtown area.

    "I think opening up Michigan Avenue to a two-way would be beneficial to visitors and residents," said Newman. "It's going to slow some traffic down out there. It's going to give you a different perspective on Michigan Avenue. And you're going to find it easier to navigate our city."

    "Opening up Michigan Avenue to a two-way would be beneficial to visitors and residents. It's going to slow some traffic down out there. It's going to give you a different perspective on Michigan Avenue. And you're going to find it easier to navigate our city." - Renee Newman

    Although converting Michigan Avenue into a two-way street might be years off, the wheels of change are already in motion.

    The city of Kalamazoo has reclaimed control of Michigan Avenue from the state, along with Kalamazoo Avenue, Westnedge Avenue and Park Street.

    The newly created Downtown Kalamazoo Economic Growth authority will be charged with maintaining the streets, but the money to make directional changes would need to come from a variety of sources, including federal block grants.

    "It's going to have to involve federal funding," Ritsema said. "We will be looking for those grants and opportunities to make this a reality."

    Paving the way to prosperity

    Downtown business owners like Alex Mantakounis of Tempo Vino said they want the feel of the downtown area to evolve and become more visitor friendly.

    "A lot of my clientele are tourists that are here to do wine and beer tours," said Mantakounis. "They can get confused by all the downtown one-ways."

    And soon there will be several hundred more people living in downtown Kalamazoo, in new high rise developments such as The Exchange tower which opens this summer.

    Exchange developer Greg Taylor, of Phoenix Properties, hopes a two-way Michigan Avenue will lend more of a neighborhood feel to the city's urban core. And, he said,making Michigan Avenue a two-way street is one way to encourage future development in a rapidly growing city.

    “Calming the traffic down here, I think that will be fantastic for our mixed-use facility and give us the opportunity for café dining on the streets," Taylor said. "There is a level of vibrancy and optimism that we haven’t seen before in downtown.”

    There will be a series of public meetings throughout the next two years to discuss changes to Michigan Avenue.

    Follow Any Dominianni on Facebook and on Twitter.

    News In Photos

      Loading ...