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Khorasaurus

Damage caused by freeways

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I'm asking this question because I honestly don't know. What was torn down to build 131 and 196? Were there any neighborhoods seriously hurt by them? Were there streets there that no longer exist (for instance, was Century Ave much of anything before 131 came through?) Would parts of the city be better off if not for the freeways?

There was a discussion on a Detroit board (not UP) about this on their side of the state, and I wondered if there were any interesting stories over here.

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I assume you're referring to initial impact as in construction impact.

Because long term impact is a whole other story told across the country.

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I'm asking this question because I honestly don't know. What was torn down to build 131 and 196? Were there any neighborhoods seriously hurt by them? Were there streets there that no longer exist (for instance, was Century Ave much of anything before 131 came through?) Would parts of the city be better off if not for the freeways?

There was a discussion on a Detroit board (not UP) about this on their side of the state, and I wondered if there were any interesting stories over here.

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I'm asking this question because I honestly don't know. What was torn down to build 131 and 196? Were there any neighborhoods seriously hurt by them? Were there streets there that no longer exist (for instance, was Century Ave much of anything before 131 came through?) Would parts of the city be better off if not for the freeways?

There was a discussion on a Detroit board (not UP) about this on their side of the state, and I wondered if there were any interesting stories over here.

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I'm asking this question because I honestly don't know. What was torn down to build 131 and 196? Were there any neighborhoods seriously hurt by them?

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The idea for 131 through downtown was to run it along the rail lines which happened to be in mostly industrial districts, where things like GVSU's downtown campus, the Ford Museum, and a like are today. The purpose for this was to eliminate what was considered to be blight. This same presence of aging industrial space also helps to explain why the river remained neglected for so many years because riversides where normally where industrial cities initially constructed their factories in the days before cars. If you look hard enough through these forums I know there are pictures floating around of what the city looked like before construction and there are even some photos taken of the the actual construction process.

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It certainly impacted my neighborhood (Belknap Lookout), but more and more I wonder if it will ultimately benefit our community. The pocket of isolation with some good connections make it a unique community. It also puts a bit of line in the sand for Pill Hill to distinguish the residential community.

"Though shall not pass!" *slams down shaft and battles the Balrog

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Overall I think the urban fabric of the core is essentially shredded by the highways. Look at west side and how it feels so disconnected from itself and DT proper thanks to I-196 and US-131. In fact, when approaching DT via Perl St. or Fulton St. I feel like I'm entering a walled city. The only things missing are parapets, turrets, and arrow slits.

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Overall I think the urban fabric of the core is essentially shredded by the highways. Look at west side and how it feels so disconnected from itself and DT proper thanks to I-196 and US-131. In fact, when approaching DT via Perl St. or Fulton St. I feel like I'm entering a walled city. The only things missing are parapets, turrets, and arrow slits.

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Excellent evenhanded report, Raildudes dad! Thanks for taking the time.

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Interesting point, RD, esp. after my trip to Jaskson. The Freeways in the Jackson seem to be routed away from its DT where GR's freeways are routed right into the heart of the city. Jackson's DT did not seem to have the same kind of energy that DT GR does. I also agree that the S-curve rebuild did make the freeway look more pleasing. Being that GR is in no position to afford a Big Dig. Its the best we can do until GR gets a more robust form of mass transit that would alleviate the need for elevated freeways to cut though the core.

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Raildudes Dad, is there any truth to the expressways crisscrossing the west side in order to break up the large democratic voting block on the near west side? I had heard a couple of former (1960's) city commissioners and other various city officials admit that this was part of the reason for intersecting the west side with elevated roads. Any truth to it?

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Interesting point, RD, esp. after my trip to Jaskson. The Freeways in the Jackson seem to be routed away from its DT where GR's freeways are routed right into the heart of the city. Jackson's DT did not seem to have the same kind of energy that DT GR does. I also agree that the S-curve rebuild did make the freeway look more pleasing. Being that GR is in no position to afford a Big Dig. Its the best we can do until GR gets a more robust form of mass transit that would alleviate the need for elevated freeways to cut though the core.

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One note about Kalamazoo is that Business 131 spurs off the main 131 highway and runs into the northern flank of the city as a freeway. Traffic is then routed directly to its DT via two one way streets, the south bound Westnedge St. and the north bound Parks St. These two one ways cut though DT. To the south of DT Park St merges with Westnedge St. From there its a two way street to the I-94 interchange. To me this would have similar effects of routing an expressway into the heart of the city. Maybe in the future when GR finally gets a good mass transit system. The S-Curve and I-196 could be replaced by similar configurations.

Here's a map

Map of K'zoo

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Raildudes Dad, is there any truth to the expressways crisscrossing the west side in order to break up the large democratic voting block on the near west side? I had heard a couple of former (1960's) city commissioners and other various city officials admit that this was part of the reason for intersecting the west side with elevated roads. Any truth to it?

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Raildudes Dad: Excellent summary. I also remember the early discount places, and have a very good memory of driving down the partially opened 131 Freeway in August of 1961 in the family Volkswagen and then going to that miracle of miracles, Rogers Plaza. In those days, 28th Street in Wyoming was hot stuff, and a year after Rogers Plaza opened, there was another plaza across the street where Goldblatt's, a Chicago department store, opened. That plaza never did as well and Goldblatt's was eventually replaced by something else.

In terms of the impact on the city from the freeways, I would note that Ann Arbor has a very vital downtown and is not bisected, or quartered, by any freeways. There is a spur leading to US23, but I94 bypasses A2 on the south. That said, I think you might some good points about the need for US-131; GR is much larger than the other Michigan cities mentioned, and simply by-passing the City on the east or west with US-131 might have left the central city in the "dust" with respect to ultimate redevelopment.

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Looking at maps of U.S. cities bigger of than Grand Rapids reveals at least some portions of freeway routed into their cores. Even cities that feature one or more beltways such as Huston, or Indianapolis, still have stretches of freeway heading directly into their cores.

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In terms of the impact on the city from the freeways, I would note that Ann Arbor has a very vital downtown and is not bisected, or quartered, by any freeways. There is a spur leading to US23, but I94 bypasses A2 on the south. That said, I think you might some good points about the need for US-131; GR is much larger than the other Michigan cities mentioned, and simply by-passing the City on the east or west with US-131 might have left the central city in the "dust" with respect to ultimate redevelopment.

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To me the big difference in AA is the U of M. There's a lot of "captive" retail foot traffic from the university students and faculty.

I was not saying the freeway had to bisect the city for downtown to be vital but rather was giving the reasoning the city fathers were using in determining the location that they were helping to pay for.

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I've been to Battle Creek only once. But that was long along when I was just a wee lad. So is its DT alive or dead?

If you want to see what Ann Arbor would look like without U of M, just look at Battle Creek. Same size, pretty similar highway layout, close to I-94, yada yada.

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I've been to Battle Creek only once. But that was long along when I was just a wee lad. So is its DT alive or dead?

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Raildude,

Thanks for the great write up! I love these walks down memory lane so feel free to share more stories about GR.

Joe

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Raildude,

Thanks for the great write up! I love these walks down memory lane so feel free to share more stories about GR.

Joe

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Thanks for the detailed history. It's hard for us young guys to imagine that Roger's Plaza was a revolutionary concept and had that much effect on the city.

It's also hard to imagine traveling from city to city using all surface streets like you describe.

Thanks for the perspective.

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