A master plan in action: City officials begin 5-year work plan in Mt. Pleasant 2050 Master Plan

City officials have been gathering community feedback, putting together presentations, and writing the Mt. Pleasant 2050 Master Plan for years. Now, the time has come to put that plan into action.

As has been the case with most previous master plans, the Mt. Pleasant 2050 Master Plan, which was officially adopted in November 2020, came with a 5-year work plan which looks at actions that can be taken to start carrying out the 2050 vision.

Some of those actions have already begun, some will be behind-the-scenes efforts that will have a large impact in the future but low visibility now, and other efforts will have high visibility within the next five years.

Jacob Kain, City Planner for the City of Mt. Pleasant, explains that those actions and the overall goals of the Mt. Pleasant 2050 Master Plan were driven by community feedback.

One of the topics raised by the community was the issue of neighborhood maintenance, which the city has already acted on by implementing the Neighborhood Enhancement Program – a grant program to help property owners make improvements to their properties. Kain says funding for this came from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, as well as the city, and was received for the second time this year.

“That's the type of thing that's going to have that tangible change in the immediacy of the next year,” says Kain.

However, not every project will have that visibility. Kain says that another example of work that will align with the action plan is the implementation of an agreement on the operations of our airport that involves other community partner organizations.

“It's something that most people in the community probably won't notice on a day-to-day basis, but it's a really important goal and it furthers the city's desire to have these strong partnerships in the community,” says Kain.

One of those partnerships is with the Mt. Pleasant Municipal Airport, which will provide more funding options for the airport, open up additional grant opportunities, and engage more people in conversation about something that benefits the entire community.

Bill Brickner, Manager of the Mt. Pleasant Municipal Airport.
“The airport, on an annual basis, has enough traffic here that it brings about $8 million into the surrounding communities - not just the City of Mt. Pleasant, but townships, counties, and statewide actually - this airport brings in about $8 million a year,” says Bill Brickner, Manager of Mt. Pleasant Municipal Airport. “That's not revenue necessarily to the airport. That is, for example, a corporate aircraft comes in and they rent a car, they eat dinner somewhere, they stay in a hotel somewhere, they spend money here. That's basically where that money is coming from.”

With so many communities impacted by that revenue, Brickner says it’s important to have more people involved in planning for the future of the airport. He says the partnership involves the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, Isabella County, Union Township, the City of Mt. Pleasant, and Middle Michigan Development Corporation.

One behind-the-scenes function of the airport that impacts a wide variety of people in the community is its ability to act as a fueling station for helicopters, he says.  

“We have two hospitals here in town that helicopters can actually land at and we are the location in which they get their fuel. So, it’s kind of a hidden thing that happens - you'll see the helicopters land at the hospitals, but you won't see them come here and get fuel,” says Brickner. “When we had the active shooter on CMU’s campus a few years ago, we had two State Police helicopters that were basically here all the time refueling so that there was always one in the air. When we had the flooding a couple of years ago, the State Police helicopters were here again to make sure roads were passable, to look for dangerous situations, that kind of thing. So, even in emergency situations, the airport plays an integral part of the community, especially if there are areas of support that are required.”

“We're all kind of end-users of the airport,” Brickner adds.

While this partnership may not be as visible as driving past a rehabilitated property, it’s one that Kain and Bricker are excited about due to its potential to impact the community.

“The airport is a significant economic driver in the community, so this is a chance for us to further add to two goals in one,” says Kain.

One of the big, tangible projects included in the master plan is reimagining Mission Street. Kain says there will be a lot of behind-the-scenes work taking place over the next five years to start accomplishing that vision. Some of that work includes looking at what each agency involved in the project would need to do to make the vision a reality, including the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“The practical reality is that's probably, in our best-case scenario, a 5-10 year project window to accomplish that and, in all likelihood, could be a little bit longer than that to get to the point where there are funds and plans and the ability to actually do a major revision,” says Kain.

So, in the interim, other work will include looking at smaller projects that can be accomplished to keep moving toward creating a safer, more vibrant corridor – projects similar to creating the connector streets.

“We don't want to just sit on our hands for 20 years and wait for reconstruction, so what can we do in the near term to make the corridor better that advances the goal?” says Kain. “We're going to be looking for things - not additional connector streets necessarily - but additional projects like that that are still impactful, but not at the level of rebuilding a couple of miles of state highway.”

A popular part of the plan is the changes to the downtown Mt. Pleasant block. This includes an expansion of the Town Center Park on the corner of Broadway Street and N. Main Street, with a redistribution of parking space to elsewhere downtown.

Of course, some projects during the next five years will be highly visible to the community and will make a significant impact, including plans to create a civic space in the town center area at the intersection of Main Street and Broadway Street downtown. This was also a project identified by the community.

While the current space is civic-oriented, it is small and doesn’t provide much opportunity for activity.

“The concepts that have been developed over these past planning efforts have been to significantly expand the size of that civic space so it does provide more opportunities for programming, as well as passive leisure activities in downtown,” says Kain. “That would certainly beautify the intersection by replacing the existing parking lot that's on that location.”

The next step to making this a reality is looking at the renderings of what the site could be and creating a specific plan for the space, says Kain.

“That [project] has the potential to happen sooner, but it wouldn't be under construction this year,” says Kain. “The goal was to look at planning this year and then to program in, based on that planning effort, probably in the next five years.”

As Kain looks at the workload facing those involved in implementing the work plan, he feels excited to get going.

“I think we're really blessed as a community to have the quality of infrastructure that we do already,” says Kain. “It's a level of service provision at a quality level that I think most communities in Michigan would be envious of…The feedback was really about moving towards the future and how can we continue to improve, even from this point, so that's exciting. That gives us a lot of opportunities to bring some exciting things to the community.”
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