It was in 1958 when my mother walked me out of the front door of Gilmore Brothers department store, to view the large bulldozers which were tearing out the pavement of Burdick Street. The street was being removed, and a pedestrian mall would take its place. 

It had become apparent to the city leaders that revitalization of the downtown area of Kalamazoo was needed as businesses felt the brunt from outlying shopping centers. City officials and business leaders tapped the talents of the architectural firm Victor Gruen and Associates of Detroit, who developed the “Gruen Plan” entitled "Downtown Kalamazoo - 1980".

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Built for $60,000, and financed by downtown business owners, the downtown mall became the first pedestrian shopping mall in the United States. Initially, it was two blocks of Burdick Street, that ran from West Michigan Avenue to Lovell Street. A third block was added in 1960, and a fourth in 1975. Kalamazoo’s nickname “The Celery City” gave way to “The Mall City”. 

The mall was opened on August 19, 1959, with a ceremony that included the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra and drew 50,000 people.  Many celebrities, who performed at the nearby State Theater, have wandered the historic downtown Burdick Street mall. Walt Disney was photographed leaving Louie’s Pipe Shop while visiting Kalamazoo.

A Classic YouTube Video Promoting the Burdick Street Mall In Kalamazoo

In a twist of fate, the Burdick Street Mall was removed and reopened to limited automobile traffic in 2000, to draw more shoppers to the downtown area businesses. 

Take a stroll down the Burdick Street Mall, as you view the photo gallery below:

18 Stores That Were On The Original Downtown Kalamazoo Mall

The Burdick Street Mall, in downtown Kalamazoo, was the first pedestrian mall constructed in the United States. It was designed by Victor Gruen and Associates of Detroit and local merchants paid the $60,000 bill for construction costs. The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra provided live music for the opening day celebration. The historic mall was removed and reopened to limited automobile traffic in 2000.
Below are photographs of stores that once bustled with shoppers, only a couple of the businesses still remain in their original locations. A few quotes, from the Facebook group, Vanished Kalamazoo, are mixed among the memories.

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