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Downtown Development: Muskegon

By Eric Richardson
Published: Saturday, December 30, 2006, at 08:51AM
Former Muskegon Mall Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Obviously I've been a little lax in my postings from here in Michigan. I'm back with family in Muskegon, a small town on the Lake Michigan shore.

Muskegon is like many midwest towns in that it used to be driven by industry and manufacturing. One by one these old economic drivers closed up or moved away, and the city's downtown core started to fade.

In the 1970s the city took a chunk of downtown and joined several old buildings together with new structures to create a mall. It did fine for a while, but in the 90s it too declined and eventually closed. A few years ago it was torn down and they began the process of trying to redevelop downtown Muskegon.

Former Muskegon MallToday where the mall was a street once again runs (Western Avenue, pictured above). This time, though, it runs through empty lots and a few abandoned buildings. There's talk of development, even of live-work units. You've got a furniture store moving into an old social club, and a school being built.

And yet even with all the progress you get some things that make you just scratch your head and ask, "Huh?" The city plans to build a new 200-space parking garage just two blocks from an old parking structure they plan to tear down. They'll do so on a prime corner closest to the lake.

This urban redevelopment really is a national thing. The issues that we have in Downtown Los Angeles are much the same as those faced in downtown Muskegon. Different scales, sure, but the same sort of revitalization issues apply.

I do think our interactive map is a lot better than theirs.

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