Kalamazoo began during the late 18th and early 19th centuries when European fur traders made their way to the area to set up trading posts. The Pottawatomie inhabited the area, but by the 1820’s pioneers began making permanent settlements in the vicinity. The first plat of land was recorded in March of 1831 for the village of Bronson, which included a jail and academy squares.
In 1884, Kalamazoo was the largest village in the United States. The 16,500 citizens voted in April of that year to become the City of Kalamazoo. Banker and entrepreneur, Allen Potter, was elected the City’s first Mayor. The City of Kalamazoo was incorporated as a commission-manager form of government in 1918, which establishes the City Commission as the legislative and governing body of the City.
In 1959 the City closed sections of Burdick Street to create the nation’s first open-air pedestrian shopping mall, earning Kalamazoo the nickname “Mall City”.
Today, Kalamazoo hosts the Kalamazoo Promise, three higher learning institutions, two nationally recognized healthcare systems, diverse housing, award winning water and water reclamation systems, and many parks, lakes, and golf courses. A wide variety of industries and businesses call Kalamazoo home, including major players in the pharmaceutical, medical science, and craft beer industries. The City also offers an assortment of cultural attractions that you might only expect to find in larger metropolitan areas including music, visual art, dance, and theatre.
For more information about Kalamazoo’s history, the Kalamazoo Public Library has an award winning collection of local history resources available online at https://www.kpl.gov/local-history/.
Kalamazoo encompasses approximately 26 square miles in southwestern Michigan, approximately 136 miles west of Detroit, 73 miles southwest of Lansing, and 145 miles east of Chicago. The City is the county seat of Kalamazoo County and is easily accessible from both I-94 and U.S. 131.
- Kalamazoo’s population is approximately 73,255 residents, that's a 1% decrease from 2020 population data
- Around 91%, a 1.6% increase, of Kalamazoo residents have a high school diploma
- 37.2%, a 3.4% increase, have a bachelor’s degree or higher
The City of Kalamazoo had an estimated median household income of $40,227 with 30.9% of the population living below the poverty line in 2021. That's a 2.5% increase from 2020 data. Efforts to share prosperity more broadly and alleviate poverty are goals that were established by the community through the Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 planning process. These goals are also supported by the Foundation for Excellence, which was established in 2017.
Kalamazoo’s owner-occupied housing unit rate is 44.2%, with a median home value of $157,600 (an increase of $51,000). Median gross rent is $833 vs. median monthly owners’ costs of $1,249 for homeowners with a mortgage. Increasing housing stock in the city is a priority of the City Commission and the Foundation for Excellence, which is investing heavily in affordable housing.
The Kalamazoo Public School System offers classes at 24 facilities with a total enrollment of approximately 12,581 students. In 2005, the introduction of the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship brought state and national recognition to the Kalamazoo Public School System. The program covers up to 100 percent of tuition and mandatory fees for up to 130 credits at Michigan’s public, private and community colleges.
There are several colleges, universities, and trade schools within the City limits including Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. During the school year the City’s population includes between 20,000 and 30,000 college students.
Industries in Kalamazoo include pharmaceuticals, healthcare, education, banking, brewing, and insurance. Among the area’s largest employers are Bronson Methodist Hospital, Borgess Medical Center, Western Michigan University, Stryker, and Pfizer. The unemployment rate for the City of Kalamazoo was 3.8% as of Sept 2022 (BLS).
Residents of Kalamazoo are served by Bronson Methodist Hospital and Borgess Medical Center. Bronson Hospital has been a Level I Trauma Center since 1989 and was the first accredited Chest Pain Emergency Center in Southwest Michigan. The hospital was awarded the Magnet Recognition for Nursing excellence considered the gold standard in nursing care, a distinction held by only 7% of the nation’s hospitals. The community is also served by the Family Health Center, which provides care to historically underserved patients in Kalamazoo County. The Family Health Center open in 1971 and celebrated the opening of an additional location in 2017.
The City of Kalamazoo provides police, fire and emergency medical services (EMS) through the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety (KDPS). KDPS is one of the largest fully integrated police, fire and EMS department in the United States. KDPS provides a range of services to ensure that the residents and visitors of Kalamazoo can maintain a high quality of life.
KDPS emphasizes community service and relationship building. Public Safety Officers are expected to conduct foot patrols in the zones they patrol and make a concerted effort to build relationships, attempting to contact every resident in their patrol area.
Metro buses and Metro Connect service operates seven days a week throughout the Kalamazoo urbanized area. There are currently 46 buses that provide service fixed route service for Metro with 14 being hybrid electric. The Metro Connect program operates with 48 paratransit vehicles. Metro provides more than two million rides to the entirety of Kalamazoo County annually.
The Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport located within the City limits is a non-hub, commercial services airport that serves area. A major east-west Amtrak rail line also passes through the City providing daily rail passenger service.
The City of Kalamazoo provides a wide variety of services including water, wastewater, street and sidewalk maintenance, traffic operations, and snow removal. The department also administers environmental protection programs, maintains two cemeteries, and offers bulk trash, brush, leaf, and recycling collection throughout the year.
In Kalamazoo's commission-manager form of government, a City Manager is appointed by the City Commission to serve as the chief administrative officer of the City. The City Manager's Office coordinates the delivery of city services within the guidelines established by the City Commission and works with all departments to enhance service effectiveness and responsiveness. The City Manager's Office also ensures organizational responsiveness to the priorities established by the City Commission through the Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 Strategic Vision.
- 838 miles of water main
- Approximately 7,000 hydrants
- 13 point of entry treatment facilities
- 14 wellfields
- 94 wells
- 11 jurisdictions served
- 53.5 million gal/day treatment plant capacity
- Average flow of 27 million gallons/day
- 300 miles of sanitary sewer
- More than 800 miles in service area
- 62 lift stations (city and townships)
- Franchise agreements with 20 municipalities
The City of Kalamazoo operates and maintains approximately 97 miles of major streets and 166 miles of local streets. The City also operates and maintains 123 traffic signal devices in the city and another 88 for adjacent jurisdictions. Public Services staff perform roadway and traffic engineering, roadway paving & patching, tree trimming & removal, concrete repair, signal maintenance, right-of-way permitting and management, and snow removal.
- 97 miles of major streets
- 166 miles of local streets
- 24 bridges
- 17 culverts
- 102 signalized intersections
- 22,287 trees in ROW
The City of Kalamazoo has a separate stormwater management system, which discharges its stormwater using thousands of catch basins and inlets, and more than 400 outfalls that primarily discharge into surface water features. Kalamazoo has had Stormwater an active MDEQ National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Stormwater Permit since 2003 and continues to be an active partner in watershed improvement projects for the Portage Creek and Arcadia Creek Watersheds (including Axtell Creek), and the Kalamazoo River Mainstem 3 Corridor (including Davis Creek).
- 228 miles of stormwater drain
- 470 total outfalls
- 11,616 catch basins/inlets
- 4,670 manholes
Parks & Recreation
Kzoo Parks maintains more than 50 parks and greenspaces for Kalamazoo residents and visitors to enjoy. Most parks have seen a significant increase in use since the pandemic began in March 2020 and that trend continued through 2022.
In 2022, phase one of the Farmers Market project was completed. The completion of this project yielded increased parking, upgraded and additional bathrooms, several new vendor stalls, and an overall fresh look to this regional destination.
Kik Pool received a complete overhaul of the domestic plumbing, and most fixtures were also replaced as part of this project. A couple small projects in the summer of 2022 included the Youth Development Center roof replacement and the parking lot at Mayors’ Riverfront Park was resealed.
Lastly, the Parks Division was able to update the remaining park signs to the new logo and design bringing cohesion for marketing and branding.
Kzoo Parks hosts several annual events each year, such as the Egg Hunt, Summer Cinema series, Halloween Forest, Lunchtime Live!, and Tree Lighting Ceremony in Bronson Park, all are free and open to all community members.
Whether it is promoting bike safety at our Bike Rodeo event or celebrating the beginning of summer at the Summer Kickoff event at Upjohn Park, we continue to grow and enhance our events to provide the best experience for our community.
We offer multiple youth development and recreation options such as after school programming, youth sports, talent shows, and summer camps. There are also several options for teens such as middle school golf, bowling, archery, Teen Talent Workshops, and our All- Things Possible summer program. Adult sport leagues are also available through our partnership with a local contractor, Best Damn Sport and Social Club.
In 2023 we will continue to grow our programs and events, while also maintaining high quality parks, to ensure we are providing quality experiences for our city. We are happy to continue working with our youth advisory team, Kalamazoo Youth Action Council (KYAC), to plan and expand our event and program offerings to provide quality experiences for our families, neighborhoods, and our city.
The City of Kalamazoo continued Economic Development programs that were implemented in 2020, aimed at bolstering entrepreneurs and neighborhood businesses. With support of the Foundation for Excellence, the Business Development Fund provides a variety of grants and loans to support new and growing businesses when traditional financing was not available.
2022 also brought several high-profile developments in Kalamazoo. Westgate Commons at 615 West Kalamazoo was completed in 2022, Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services added six homes to the scattered site brownfield plan that broke ground this year, and the property at 315 E Alcott was sold to the county for parking at the redeveloped Health Department offices.
- 234 W Cedar (400 Rose Phase 2) is expected to be substantially completed in 2022, with official opening in 2023.
- 315 E Frank, a multi-use development will be completing commercial space in 2023, with residential units on track to open in 2024.
- Other projects planning to break ground in 2023 include tiny homes at 447 E North/707 N Westnedge and Arcadia Lofts. These developments are bringing new residential units to the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, in addition to new commercial and office space.
The City of Kalamazoo’s Economic Development staff and Brownfield Redevelopment Authority continue to work with development partners to bring realize high quality projects that are consistent with the City’s values and the Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 Vision and Master Plan.
Annual Awards and Recognitions
- Tree City USA, 24 years
- GFOA Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, 25 years
- GFOA Certificate of Excellence in Budgeting, 24 years
- Groundwater Guardian Community, The Groundwater Foundation, 18 years
- MDEQ Wellhead Protection Program Grant Recipient, 18 years
- Affordable Project of the Year – The Kalamazoo Attainable Homes Partnership (KAHP), Michigan Energy Efficiency Contractors Association, 2021
- KAHP is a partnership between Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services Inc, Home Builders Association of Western Michigan, LISC Kalamazoo, the City of Kalamazoo (with funding from the Foundation for Excellence), Consumers Energy, and the Kalamazoo County Land Bank.
- APWA - Southwest Branch of the Michigan Chapter Quality of Life More than $1M Award - Farmer's Market Renovation, 2022
- A - Michigan Chapter Project of the Year for Structures $5 Million to $25 Million - WPS #22 Elevated Tank and Water Main Project, 2021
- Southwestern Michigan Branch Quality of Life Award - WPS #22 Elevated Tank and Water Main Project, 2021
- APWA – Southwest Branch of the Michigan Chapter Project of the Year for Structure over $1 Million - WPS #22 Elevated Tank and Water Main Project, 2020
- Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award - Cork Street Project, Southwest Michigan Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers, 2020
- Project of the Year – Siesta Water Tower, Southwest Branch of the Michigan Chapter of the American Public Works Association, 2020
- Daniel L Becker Award for Local Leadership in Preservation, National Alliance of Preservation Commissions, 2014
- Exemplary Wellhead Protection Program Award (Large Groundwater Systems), American Water Works Association (Michigan Section), 2004 and 2013
- Note name change on Wellhead Protection Program Grant from MDEQ to EGLE for Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy
- Citizen Award, Michigan Historic Preservation Network, 2011
- Richard Husby Public Awareness Award, American Water Works Association (Michigan Section), 2007
- Silver, Gold, and Platinum Awards for the Wastewater Treatment Plant through the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA)
- MDEQ Brownfield Grant and Loan Recipient
Employee and Department Awards and Recognition
- Recognition for funding the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Assessment, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights – 2021
- ASCE Southwestern Michigan Branch Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award, Public Works and Water Department, City of Kalamazoo, 2021
- Police Accreditation – Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, Michigan Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission (MLEAC), 2020
- National Exemplary Source Water Protection Award (Large Groundwater Systems), American Water Works Association, 2014
- Digital Cities Survey Winner, Center for Digital Government, 2022