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Get to Know the Oakland Drive-Winchell Neighborhood

Oakland Drive-Winchell Neighborhood Association

We are happy to share this article by Peter Kushner. Peter has lived in the city of Kalamazoo since 1991, and the Oakland/Winchell neighborhood since 1999. He has been the President of the Oakland Drive-Winchell Neighborhood Association (ODWNA) since 2012 and board member since 2009.

Kalamazoo has 21 neighborhoods; each with unique characteristics and a shared sense of community. The Oakland Drive-Winchell neighborhood is located on the west side of the city and extends from Stadium Drive/Howard Street, to the north to Parkview Avenue to the south. The western boundary is Asylum Lake. The eastern boundary includes Kleinstuck Marsh and Pikes Pond.

Let’s dig a little deeper though, to see what the Oakland Drive/Winchell neighborhood is all about!

A great thing about our neighborhood is how centrally located it is within the City as well as how many entertaining and useful amenities are just a short walk, bike ride or drive away. Oakwood Plaza, a 10 minute walk from Winchell Avenue, has banks, shopping, coffee and ice cream shops as well as restaurants and a dry cleaners. Another few steps and you can do your grocery shopping. If you head west to Stadium Drive, there is everything from fast food, to hardware stores, to new cars! We are also home to Winchell Elementary School; parents and children regularly walk or bike to school. And there are four houses of worship within our neighborhood.

One of our neighborhood gems is Asylum Lake and the Asylum Lake Preserve. The Preserve is a 274 acre parcel of land owned by Western Michigan University and under the agreement between the City and WMU the land is preserved as a passive-use recreation area. The property also serves as a research area for professors and students of anthropology, biology, geography, hydrogeology, and environmental studies at WMU and other educational institutions.

Another remarkable part of our neighborhood is Woods Lake. It is home to Woods Lake Beach Park, which is open to the public every summer. The park underwent major improvements in 2016, including adding a new restroom and changing facility, picnic pavilion, playground, observation deck, fishing pier, rain garden and landscaping. The park also includes a beach, canoe launch picnic tables and nature walk perfect for a family outing.

The south shore of Woods Lake is also famously known for being the former home of a succession of popular amusement parks from the 1890s to 1920s. Opened as Wood’s Lake Park in June 1893, patrons enjoyed band concerts, a merry-go-round, balloon ascensions, baseball games, boating, dancing and picnicking along the wooded shoreline. The Park’s peak came during the 1911-1915 seasons, when almost 15,000 patrons visited the resort each day. A new band shell was built at that time which was home to Chester Z. Bronson’s Symphony Orchestra (a forerunner of today’s KSO.)

Owing to declining use and a disastrous hot air balloon death, the park permanently closed on May 3, 1925. The property was subsequently sold and subdivided into a residential neighborhood known thereafter as Parkdale. Residential homes in the Winchell neighborhood now occupy most of what was once Kalamazoo’s “Coney Island.”

Speaking of residential development, another one-of-a-kind neighborhood gem is Parkwyn Village, a development founded in the 1946 by a group of young Upjohn Company scientists who had a vision for a "congenial housing community". While only four of Parkwyn's homes are pure Frank Lloyd Wright designs, his concepts influenced the majority of homes in the neighborhood.

Residents of this neighborhood are served by the Oakland Drive/ Winchell Avenue Neighborhood Association; founded in 1973. To stay in touch with neighbors, the ODWNA employs a number of tools: eNews - a free, once/monthly email newsletter that is sent out to keep subscribers informed of what is happening neighborhood- and city-wide. There are also monthly meetings with an informal meet & greet- perfect for newcomers to the area. They also maintain a website that posts current information and links to neighborhood and city resources.

The ODWNA also sponsors events like the “Speaker Series” where local area experts inform and educate neighbors of current events in Kalamazoo, and every May the Neighborhood Car Show gives residents the opportunity to come out and see all the great classic cars from the neighborhood and kick off the summer.

Part of this neighborhoods appeal are the annual events that bring people together, add character and charm. Every Christmas Eve nearly 3000 candles glow in luminaries, and in the spring people join in for the April Neighborhood Garage sale. Then the Kalamazoo Marathon brings out the enthusiasm of the neighborhood, where you’ll hear blow-horns, music and see signs of support, along with food and water stops.

There are many reasons this neighborhood is known for being a great place to live; notable architectural styles combine to create a vibrant and harmonious streetscape. This is a neighborhood where you'll see mature trees and open spaces, plenty of sidewalks, gardens and flowers, walkers with dogs, kids on their bikes, ponds and lakes, nature preserves and parks, and neighbors of all ages. Oakland/Winchell is a great place to grow up and a great place to grow older.

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