Center City Streetscape Complete

With Priority One of the South Saginaw Streetscape Renovation now in the rearview mirror, the Center City Authority is turning its attention to Priority Two - enhancing South Saginaw Road from Dartmouth to Jefferson streets.

“It has taken us 17 years to get to this point,” said Joe Kozuch last Thursday before a small crowd that surveyed the newly completed CCA Streetscape construction with its new LED lighting, freshly planted trees and eight-foot-wide sidewalks. “It began in 2006 with Bill Schuette and Maureen Donker with the Project for Public Spaces Committee and then it became Center City and we’ve worked diligently. It's been a long road.” Kozuch is the chairman of the Center City Authority Board and the owner of Village Green.
Joe Kozuch is the chairman of the Center City Authority Board.
CCA board members and supporters celebrated the first major street and sidewalk project since the Circle Business Association - active since the 1960s - joined with businesses on South Saginaw and Washington streets to form the CCA in 2008, bookended along Saginaw Road by Patrick Road on the southeast and Manor Drive on the northwest. The development planning was kicked off with a $190,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture 

In front of Village Green, Kozuch’s business, Schuette and Donker returned with Kozuch and the rest of those who too turned turn their attention toward the future, improving access to the corridor to the northwest.
Sharon Mortensen is the president & CEO of the Midland Area Community Foundation.
Sharon Mortensen, executive director of the Midland Area Community Foundation, whose offices are within the CCA boundaries at the Circle area, kicked off the celebration of the $3.46 million project with a nod toward all the people over the years whose efforts have contributed to and will continue to contribute to a thriving community..

“When I think of the Center City I think about the incredible work by so many people for many many years to invest in this part  of the city,” Mortensen says. “This is the second oldest business district in Midland and its one that probably has not received the attention of some of the others, until recently. We give a hearty thanks to many of you who are here today because you have contributed, whether as a funder, a member of the Center City Authority board, a committee member or a general community supporter who is always looking for ways to move our community forward. It took a lot of work, a lot of us coming together.”

Donker and Schuette bridged the gap between those who brought the CCA forward to today, and what the future looks like.

Mayor Maureen Donker said South Saginaw Road was mainly designed for access by auto but the Streetscape Project makes it more accessible for all users. 
Mayor Maureen Donker spoke at the Center City Streetscape celebration.
“For a long time this has been a very busy thoroughfare that was designed for access primarily by vehicle, but  now we have the expanded sidewalks, the newer trees, enhanced lighting and more greenspace. It’s awesome,” she notes. “This corridor has the potential to be an incredibly vibrant community center that is more accessible to all users, safer for pedestrians and nonmotorized  transportation, and more engaging for businesses and residents alike.”

“This is an excellent example of a public/private partnership,” she continues. ‘“This is really a very exciting project for Midland.”

Schuette, executive vice president and assistant treasurer of the Gerstacker Foundation, evoked memories of his mother, Esther Schuette Gerstacker, and stepfather Carl Gerstacker, while answering the question “why” remake the Saginaw Road corridor?  
Bill Schuette is the executive vice-president of the Gerstacker Foundation.
“It’s all about building Midland’s future and making Midland better every day,” he says.

He was told by his parents, he notes, “‘Bill, your job is to make sure Midland is the best town in America’.” and to that end fierce competition from other communities and must be met head on.

“If you live in the past, you will get passed by,” he says, "All the investment we do for Midland’s future is really essential.”

Kozuch took the celebrants into a Walk the Block District Tour that followed the celebration to get a feel for the scope of the project completed and what lies ahead.

As part of the Priority One project, he notes, and in an effort to entice more walkers and bicyclists, the Streetscape has installed 93 new lighting poles, more than twice the old number of lights, 147 young trees of 11 varieties replacing the 86 aging trees, and 1.82 miles of sidewalks, extending 8-feet wide on both sides of South Saginaw, an upgrade for walking, biking and  using assisted mobility devices.

“If you come down here at night, you will see the sidewalks lit and the roads lit. That is something that is new to Midland and it is nice,” Kozuch says.

In addition, a grassy buffer zone was built between the sidewalks and the road and the city and CCA members are working on zoning laws and access management - five driveways were closed during this portion of the  renovation - to help attract new businesses and increase safety.

“I can’t wait for Priority Two, that is going to be the fun one,’ Kozuch adds. “It is a lot closer to Manor than it is to Patrick from here.”

Before beginning the ribbon cutting and the tour, Kozuch thanked all the donors that included Dow Company Foundation, Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, City of Midland, Charles J. Strosacker Foundation, Midland Area Community Foundation, Dow Employees Credit Union, Huntington Bank, Isabella Bank, Horizon Bank, Mary Currie, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Streetscape project features more lighting.
He also acknowledged project contractors: Streetscape designer MKSK of Detroit, engineering designer Moore+Bruggink of Grand Rapids, general contractor Isabella Corp. of Mt. Pleasant, subcontractors Heinz Tree Service of Saginaw, Servinski Sod Service of Midland, Countyline Power of Midland and the Midland Public Works Dept.

Planning for Priority Two will begin following the City of Midland resolving the long-term plans for traffic patterns on Ashman and Rodd streets, expected in October 2023. After that, the CCA board will revisit the 2019 Center City Redevelopment Plan in creating a vision for Phase II, including the Ashman Circle area, according to information from the CCA..

The CCA already approved the concept of two-way streets on Ashman and Rodd in a 6-1vote at a meeting on September 20.  

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Read more articles by Ralph E. Wirtz.

Ralph E. Wirtz is a native Midlander who retired from the Midland Daily News as a managing editor in 2015. He has been freelancing since then in between traveling and volunteering. He has four adult children, all who graduated from Bullock Creek High School as he did. He is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and a Central Michigan University grad. He can be reached at