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history kalamazoo



Downtown’s evolution began in the 1950’s with the formation of the Downtown Kalamazoo Association which focused their efforts specifically on retail marketing through promotions like Sidewalk Sales and the Kalamazoo Holiday Parade. 

1960’s & 1970’s

In the 1960’s and 1970’s the Downtown Services Department was formed to address downtown items under the umbrella of the Community Development and Planning Department. The Kalamazoo Center and the Skyrise were both built during that time. The parking system was also established at this time.


The Downtown Development Authority was formed in 1982 under Public Act 197 (DDA Boundary Map). This act permitted the DDA to levy taxes, issue bonds, assemble land and created the Tax Increment Financing structure amongst other items. It was during these early days that the deterioration of the North Central Business District was addressed through the beginnings of the Arcadia Creek Project. Downtown Tomorrow Incorporated was created in 1986 as a non-profit 501(c)3 specifically purposed to fundraise and assemble land working toward the Arcadia Creek Project. Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated was formed in 1989 as a non-profit 501(c)6 to coordinate planning and development efforts, lobby and market the image of downtown. It was at this time that the Downtown Kalamazoo Association was dissolved. DKI also retained management of the AutoPark system in 1989. The Arcadia Creek Project continued as well as many other capital improvements.


Downtown Kalamazoo Association Charities was formed as a 501(c)3 in 1992 to coordinate downtown festivals and events. In 1996 the City of Kalamazoo and Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated coordinated a fundraising effort to assist in infrastructure improvements to downtown as identified in the Comprehensive Plan completed that year. This effort, known as Project Downtown specifically addressed the Kalamazoo Mall, Gateways, Traffic flow, and pattern and Wayfinding measures within the downtown core.


In 2000, Downtown Kalamazoo Incorporated began efforts to create the downtown districts known as Arcadia, Kalamazoo Mall, South Town, East End, Bronson Park, and Haymarket. It was also at this time that DTI and the DDA established programs to further business development efforts through the creation of the Building Revitalization Program (BRP), Business Recruitment Incentive Program (BRIP), and the Project Related Investment (PRI) programs.