It's no secret that in the past 30 years I've, at times, been critical of the direction those in charge of downtown Kalamazoo have taken.  I will say this, though, in the past 5-10 years there have been some very positive developments.

Earlier this week I wrote about the new Haymarket Plaza project that will give the area another space for people to gather for various activities.  And a few weeks ago my excitement for the Bates Alley initiative grew at the proposal to make the entire alley space open to eating, drinking and gathering.

These are not new ideas to American cities and I'm just glad that new ideas are being implemented even though they weren't originally Downtown Kalamazoo's ideas.  By that I mean that sometimes there has been the mentality that ideas can't be good if they're somebody elses.

What does make me wonder is if the newest proposal to help save downtown Kalamazoo businesses would've have happened without the pandemic.  But lets not dwell on that and be happy that it has come to fruition.

One of the biggest obstacles for many people when it comes to going out to a bar or restaurant is the fear of the virus indoors.  Along with that is people sitting together at bars seems to be risky.  So what if you could go downtown, get a drink somewhere and take it outside and enjoy the weather at the same time?

Lo and behold the City Commission voted to allow "social districts" where people can gather outside and drink alcohol.  Ya know, like in many other cities across the country.  The proposed commons areas would operate seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

I think this is a great idea that should've been in place before the pandemic to attract more people to downtown.  Way to go Downtown Kalamazoo!

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