A Problem Solved: WMU’s BTR Park Downtown on Arcadia Commons


The following was submitted to the Kalamazoo Gazette on 8 June. The next day the Gazette’s Community Engagement Specialist informed me that it would be published as a guest column within the next few days.  This has not happened as of 15 June so I decided to post it here in a slightly expanded version.

Solutions may not show up until long after a problem arises. For example, smallpox appeared as a new disease in humans thousands of years ago, but vaccination wasn’t invented till 1796.

A quicker match has appeared for one of Western Michigan University’s problems. WMU needs a substitute site on which to build a new BTR park. Currently, the school plans to use the Colony Farm Orchard, a largely natural wooded site adjacent to Asylum Lake Preserve.
The group Save the Colony Farm Orchard has suggested that this development is a bad idea because–among other problems– it would destroy the historic orchard with its varied flora and fauna, would have a harmful influence on Asylum Lake Preserve, and would intensify the already-unpleasant urban sprawl of this region where Kalamazoo and Oshtemo Township meet.

More than a few people have pointed out that brownfields or other vacant lands in downtown Kalamazoo avoid all these problems and are the logical place for WMU’s new BRT park.

And now comes the Gazette for 4 June 2015 with its front page headline
“Developers sought for Arcadia Commons.”

The story begins, “A task force is looking for someone to help it decide what to do with the undeveloped Arcadia Commons property in downtown Kalamazoo.” It goes on to describe the four-block property bordered by Kalamazoo Ave, Park St, Water St, and Westnedge Ave. The site is slightly more than 6 acres, and WMU already owns half of it.

This is one of those rare situations in which two individual problems: (1) Where should WMU’s BTR park go? and (2) What is a viable use for the area northwest of Kalamazoo’s central business district? each forms the solution to the other.

Clearly, the stars have aligned to tell us that WMU’s BTR park should go on the Arcadia Commons land.

Land that once, a few years ago, was being considered as a place to house some combination hockey arena/assembly hall we now see is meant to hold the second stage of WMU’s BTR park.

Possibly the rich assortment of medical resources downtown, including WMU’s new medical school, is pointing to the area of emphasis for the new BTR park.