The construction on Crosstown Parkway is done; the barricades and traffic cones are gone and traffic is flowing in the midtown section of Kalamazoo. Getting around will be easier. Huzzah!. That's the news portion of this, but it got me to thinking about Crosstown Parkway, and with a quick search on google, I was remind on where Crosstown Parkway starts and ends, and maybe how it's symbolic, at the very least, of the passage of time.

I was told a few months back that Crosstown was originally intended to be a shortcut across town, back when it was built in 1939. (Thanks to the City of Kalamazoo's Sharon Ferraro on the date information.) Back in 1890, the land it occupies was named Third Street where it crossed Portage Street. Second Street still exists. The layout of the area to the west, just south of Bronson Hospital makes very little sense, (maybe once it did) but there were probably obvious reason for it, as the nearby area seems to be a flood plain as does much of that section of town reaching towards the ballpark. In my time there's nothing to indicate a "short cut", as traffic are not synchronized and driving on it not exactly a breeze.

I grew up in Chicago, and an anthem everyone from there knows is a song called "Lake Shore Drive". Now, obviously there's no true parallel from Chicago's Lake Shore Drive to Kalamazoo's Crosstown Parkway, but there's one line in the chorus that may apply. It's the lyric that says "From rags on up to riches, fifteen minutes you can fly, Pretty blue lights along the way, help you right on by."

I'd forgotten that Crosstown Parkway forks off Bronson Boulevard on the south. There's your riches, and if you start at Bronson Boulevard as you head toward King Highway, you see a gradual decline, what would've been called "urban decay", back in the day. There's the cop shop at Burdick, a beautiful job of re-purposing. But that used to be a big Sears store. Before Sears moved to Portage, it was there from about 1957 to 1980. Nearby was a Holiday Inn, where many who moved to or simply visited Kalamazoo stayed. By the time you arrive at Portage Street, you see some serious decline. Portage Street had car dealerships, like DeNooyer. At the light, there's the shell of what used to be Hoekstra's hardware store, on your left. Then you head to King Highway. At best, King Highway is industrial now. But some forty to sixty years ago, there were legendary eating and drinking establishments.

At least this look at its history finally begins to make sense of how there was a need to have a shortcut to King Highway. As the headline alludes to the song Boulevard of Broken Dreams, as the population moved away, to Portage, or Westwood, the businesses went with them. But it's sad seeing what was left in that movement's wake.

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