WSW: History, Aesthetics And Diversity Help Washington Square's Resurgence

Jul 12, 2018

Washington Square
Credit Fran Dwight / On the Ground Edison/Southwest Michigan's Second Wave

Theresa Coty O’Neil says photographs from the 1950’s show a vibrant Washington Square in Kalamazoo’s Edison Neighborhood. Her story for the On the Ground Edison Project from Southwest Michigan’s Second Wave tells the story of trying to recreate that atmosphere.

On the Ground Edison has been sharing stories from the Edison Neighborhood since April. Coty O’Neill is the Project Editor. She and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Program Vice President Chuck Vliek spoke with WMUK’s Gordon Evans. The story is called From Boom to Bust To Boom: Washington Square Makes an Upturn

Coty O’Neil says Washington Square suffered due to suburban shopping malls, and more cars which allowed people to travel further to shop. Coty O’Neil says the closing of paper mills and other businesses also hurt the area. Vliek says it’s taken millions of dollars in investment, but he says the area has made a comeback. Vliek says LISC has worked with the city, the Edison Neighborhood Association and the Kalamazoo County Land Bank on bringing investment to Washington Square and the Edison Neighborhood.

Coty O’Neil says business owners who locate in Edison like the historical aspects and aesthetics. She says they talk about the people in Edison. Despite a reputation for problems with crime, Coty O’Neil says business owners tell her they haven’t had problems with criminal activity. Vliek says the trend of urbanism has drawn people to Edison and brought businesses to Washington Square.

Coty O’Neil says some people choose to live there because they don’t have to rely on a car for things like grocery shopping. Vliek says new projects are planned including a theater. He says LISC plans to continue spending money and energy on housing. Vliek says that includes new affordable housing, and working on improving housing stock that is in sub-standard condition.

Southwest Michigan’s Second Wave will wrap up its work in the Edison Neighborhood at the end of July. The first two stories from community correspondents trained as part of the project are now published. Coty O’Neil says On the Ground will now move on to Kalamazoo’s north side.