Pedestrian plazas opening this June in downtown Midland

Sit back and relax; summer is coming to downtown Midland. 

The pedestrian plaza, a vibrant, outdoor social space closed to vehicle traffic, is soon to be open on Main Street. Sections of the street will be off-limits to vehicles starting Friday, June 4, in conjunction with Art Seen Festival, Mural Blast, and the Art Fair also happening downtown that weekend. It will remain closed through Oct. 31 — stay tuned for a Halloween event.

The plan is for the plaza to be ready by Thursday, June 10. During those few days after the art festivals, shops and restaurants will be building out into the streets. The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has big plans for decking out the space.

Concerned about parking? The DDA is developing a marketing campaign to ease any worries.“Last year was so reactionary with trying to prepare for COVID and the shutdowns and responding to those; we had no budget to work with,” says Tisdale.  “… This year, we’ve had a little time to ... develop some ideas and ways to dress it up a bit and make it more inviting, and hopefully more fun for people to come down and spend some time in downtown Midland.”

Learning from a survey conducted regarding last year’s plazas, the DDA will be adding more seating. There will be 20 picnic tables, 6 handicap accessible tables, and 4 convertible benches, which can be flipped over to become picnic tables. The seating doesn’t stop there.

“I know that heat is a big issue when you’re on the pavement, so we’re going to be bringing in some live turf areas that will have some trees and plants to set it off as kind of a unique and more intimate space with seating that folks can enjoy throughout the summer,” says Tisdale. “There’ll be one of these seating areas in both of the blocks that are closed.”

This year, there will be 20 picnic tables, 6 handicap accessible tables, and 4 convertible benches, which can be flipped over to become picnic tables.Also downtown is The Commons area, where alcohol will be allowed outdoors. It spans a larger part of downtown than the pedestrian plaza, stretching from Gordon Street by the H Hotel all the way to Rodd, stretching across to Larkin Street. Signage will be placed outside, so pedestrians know when they are about to leave the allowable area. The Commons will continue through Jan. 5, 2022, with the possibility of it being extended further.

“We’re hoping to make a good showing with our Commons area this year and if we’re really enjoying it and it’s working well for us, then we will go back to City Council in late 2021 to see if we can get that January date extended,” says Tisdale.

Concerned about parking? The DDA is developing a marketing campaign to ease any worries. The campaign will be available on the Downtown Midland website and on their social media pages. There will also be updated signage in downtown.

The yellow highlighted square marks the Commons area, where alcohol will be permitted. The red section is where the pedestrian plaza will be.
“The best thing we can do for folks who are concerned about parking is to provide parking maps and parking strategies for people who want to come downtown,” says Tisdale. 

Accessibility is an important consideration in the plaza planning. Because of the street closures, four handicap accessible spaces will be taken out of service. Those spaces will be relocated, and more accessible spaces will be added. Drop-off zones at the end of either block will be designated, with seating available nearby. “We want to make it accessible for everyone,” says Tisdale.

Looking forward to an eventful summer

Events will go on as planned this summer, starting with the art festivals June 5-6. Once the plaza is open, The Commons Live Music Series will kick-off for the summer, beginning June 11 from 7-9 p.m. As part of this series, local musicians will be playing at the intersection of Main Street and McDonald Street (bring a chair!) every Friday and Saturday from 7-9 p.m.

“We’ve got a great lineup of summer bands that were a great hit last year; we’re bringing many of them back,” says Tisdale. “Depending on how this summer goes as things continue to build and open up, we may be looking to add additional music later into the evenings.” And when the sun goes down, solar-powered lights will shine on the trees. There will also be firework lights brightening the space.

The Commons Live Music Series will kick-off for the summer, beginning June 11 from 7-9 p.m.

Returning this year is Adult Recess, a break from the workday to play oversized games like Jenga, Connect 4, and cornhole. To start, these games will be available on Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m.

“We’re hoping to be able to let that linger into the evening hours so that folks can come down throughout the day and enjoy the large, over-scale games,” says Tisdale. 

In July, Sidewalk Days and Mini Golf on Main are returning. August will be even more packed: River Days, Gus Macker, and Tapped are all planned. 

“We have purposefully pushed Tapped into the last weekend in August, again, hoping that we can get it as far away from COVID restrictions as possible and be able to make that as open of an event as possible,” says Tisdale.

Rather than hosting these events all in the pedestrian plaza, the plan is to use the new Main Street Plaza under Poseyville Bridge. 

Events will go on as planned this summer, starting with the art festivals June 5-6. You can look forward to the return of Sidewalk Days, Mini Golf on Main, River Days, Gus Macker, and Tapped.
“We’re looking forward to hosting a few events there and trying it out, and seeing how it works as an event space — hopefully sparking some great ideas among community members of how they too can use that space to sponsor fun things in downtown Midland,” says Tisdale. “... It’s part of our DDA long-term goals to create more linkages between the core shopping district of downtown Midland and our friends at the East End and Dow Diamond, and making it a more interesting path to walk between the two spaces of downtown.”

Follow Downtown Midland on Facebook or Instagram to learn about last-minute changes or additions. 

Read more articles by Crystal Gwizdala.

Crystal Gwizdala grew up in the Tri-Cities and enjoys broadcasting all the positive change happening in Midland. As Assistant Editor for Catalyst Midland, her favorite topics are environment, wellness, mental health, and the arts. As a human, Crystal is a serial hobbyist: hiking, drawing, yoga, and playing music. Her work can be seen in The Detroit Free Press, Midland Daily News, and The Delta Collegiate. To see what Crystal’s up to, you can follow her on Twitter @CrystalGwizdala.