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Community invited to attend West Gateway dedication

May 28, 2009

KALAMAZOO--A new West Gateway to Kalamazoo's downtown area that enhances the neighborhoods surrounding Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University will be dedicated during a public ceremony Friday, June 5.

The 5 p.m. dedication is scheduled to coincide with and share the celebratory atmosphere of the community's regularly scheduled June 5 Art Hop. The dedication of the new gateway, which is located at the intersection of Oakland Drive and West Lovell Street, will feature a ribbon-cutting ceremony that will involve:

  • Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell
  • Kalamazoo College President Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran
  • Western Michigan University Associate Vice President Bob Miller
  • Downtown Kalamazoo Inc. CEO Ken Nacci
  • Neighborhood representative Bill Snyder
  • Eric Lyons, principal chairman of O'Boyle, Cowell, Blalock and Associates

Frayed and The Strutt, two Kalamazoo businesses immediately adjacent to the Gateway area, will sponsor exhibits by local artists and complimentary refreshments. Following the dedication, music, theatre and circus groups from the community, Kalamazoo College and WMU will perform in College Park, which also is adjacent to the gateway.

"The West Gateway is really a tribute to the power of committed citizenry," says Kalamazoo College's Kim Cummings, who is part of the organizing coalition that worked for more than a decade to make the effort a reality.

Tribute to city's past, present and future

Responding to Downtown Kalamazoo Inc.'s 1995 call for citizen involvement to beautify the city's principal entry points, neighbors in the expanded South Street Historic District provided impetus for the project. They recognized the project area as a "zone of convergence," a natural gateway not only to the downtown, but also to nearby institutions of higher education, and, encouraged by the design work of O'Boyle, Cowell, Blalock and Associates, pulled together the key parties to form a planning coalition.

The coalition, made up of representatives from the South Street Historic District, the city of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo College and WMU, assumed planning responsibility in 1996. Its goal was to realize a gateway project that would further strengthen adjacent neighborhoods as well as pay dramatic tribute to the city's strong arts and education identity.

The West Gateway project has unfolded in two distinct phases. Phase I, funded largely by $250,000 in extra property taxes voluntarily assumed by landowners in the South Street Historic District, featured the installation of historic lighting along West Lovell, South and Academy Streets. Supplementary city funding also made possible the enhancement of intersections throughout the neighborhood area. Phase I was completed in 1998.

Additional years of planning, fund-raising, and negotiation culminated in a proposal for Phase II of the project, which won funding from the Michigan Department of Transportation's federally funded highway beautification fund. Phase II, completed in 2008, includes the following:

  • Upgrades to the intersections of Oakland Drive at West Lovell and South Streets
  • Construction of a bikeway/pedestrian path extending the existing pathway from Western Michigan University toward regional trailways to the north
  • Landscaping and lighting throughout College Park
  • Erection of a pair of colonnades in the classical Greek style that transforms the traffic island into a dramatic monument to the city as well as a more viable point of connection from the institutions of higher learning and surrounding neighborhoods to downtown

The colonnade design came originally from the workshop of noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, also the source of landscape designs evidenced on WMU's Prospect Hill. In addition to the colonnades themselves, the traffic island has been extensively landscaped.

Project funding

Funding for the planning and the two phases of the West Gateway Project totals approximately $1.2 million, of which $265,000 in state/federal funding is the single largest component. Other contributors include the Kalamazoo Community and Irving S. Gilmore foundations, local businesses and individual donors as well as each of the Coalition's members.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400