When Midland shoppers don their finest apparel for the holidays, they will see Midland’s Center City business district is getting a bit of sprucing up itself as they travel along Saginaw Road, with a Phase 1 makeover set for completion in November.
“It is really exciting to see the work beginning,” says Joe Kozuch, who along with his wife, Maureen, have owned The Village Green, 715 South Saginaw Road, since 2000. Joe Kozuch is one of two original members of the Corridor Improvement Authority for the Center City commercial district which was approved by Midland City Council in 2008.That vote created the Tax Increment Financing mechanism which is used to funnel tax dollars into business improvements. Current CCA Chairman David Ginis of Ginis Goldsmiths is the other original member.
New, eight-foot wide sidewalks will be featured in Center City.
The current improvement project began in 2017, when The Dow Chemical Co. gave the Center City Authority a $1 million gift to be used for Saginaw Road improvements to make the business district safer and more inviting to use for both the motorized and non-motorized/pedestrian traffic.
“It always was about the community,” says Selina Tisdale, executive director of the CCA board and staff liaison for the city since 2011, who noted that a petition drive to improve the marketing along the Saginaw Road Corridor received support from 75 percent of the property owners. CCA members must own property or live within .5 miles of the business district border.
The first phase of the Center City project is scheduled for completion in November.
That initial $1 million challenge grant has grown into the $4.9 million project that began making physical changes to the corridor earlier this summer from Dartmouth Road to BR10/Patrick Road using a design developed by MKSK, a landscape planner and urban design firm headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.
With the support of Dow and the City of Midland, the Authority completed raising the matching grants from The Dow Foundation, the Gerstacker Foundation, Strosacker Foundation, the Midland Community Foundation, The Dow Employees Credit Union, Huntington Bank, Isabella Bank, Horizon Bank and Mary Currie. The final $15,000 of the matching grant was authorized from the Midland County Road Millage.
The beautification project will include eight-foot walkways along both sides of the corridor, to aid walking and biking, trees, and other aesthetic improvements along Saginaw Road, and new lighting designed to improve vision and safety for drivers. The timing coincides with the resurfacing of Saginaw Road last year by the city and the two improvement projects combined total $4.3 million in improvements.
The Isabella Corporation, a contractor from Mount Pleasant, won the $3.4 million general contract and began work in July with the first phase scheduled for a November completion date.
Kozuch said that the project is pretty much on schedule and it might interfere a bit with the Midland 2022 Christmas Parade in November as the participants leave from Eastlawn down Saginaw to Ashman, but that remains to be seen.
Tisdale and Kozuch say complaints about the tree cutting (of 83 mature trees) has been as expected whenever changes are made, but they note what most people don’t know is that they will be replaced with 147 trees native to the area. In some cases, Kozuch adds, signs covered by the mature trees will be able to be seen again for the first time in years.
But they sympathize with those who rue the tree cutting. “It’s always a sad day in the community when change is made,” Tisdale says.
Kozuch adds people will be excited when they see the improvements, which will improve safety, enable more use by pedestrians and bicyclists, and establish a system of storefronts which will be better able to let those using Saginaw Road to see what is available.
Phase Two planning from Dartmouth to Manor Drive is taking place right now, Tisdale says, and it will incorporate many of the improvements taking place now.