The idea behind Dig In Midland is that this is a project that involves the community for the benefit of the community. Multiple partners, including the City of Midland, the Midland DDA, the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, Carl A. Gerstacker Foundation and Charles J. Strosacker Foundation, the Midland Downtown Business Association and many others are involved in making this project a success. We wanted a name that would reflect this partnership and the spirit of digging in and getting something amazing accomplished.
After 23 years of use, our streetscape is in need of repair. Uneven sidewalks along Main Street are a safety concern, aesthetics need updating, and the changes will support restaurants and retailers who want a greater outdoor presence.
- The primary reason for this project is to update and enhance our streetscape. Uneven sidewalks along Main Street are a safety concern, curbs and crosswalks are in need of replacement, and the electrical system is inadequate and needs updating. The typical useful “lifespan” of street infrastructure is 15-20 years, after which time full reconstruction is often undertaken.
- Secondary reasons for this project include the need to support restaurants and retailers who want a greater outdoor presence, but currently have little room to do so, and a changing focus for downtowns to be a social gathering spot and a place of entertainment for the community.
- The current Main Street streetscape is 23 years old. The most recent Main Street project was completed in the 1993 construction season. Most streetscape designs last 15-20 years before needing to be replaced and updated. Ashman Street was updated in 2006 and Ellsworth Street in 2014.
The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, Carl A. Gerstacker Foundation and Charles J. Strosacker Foundation have collectively contributed $7 million toward the streetscape construction project (Dig In Midland). With foundation support, the new downtown streetscape can be accomplished without using tax funds, bond financing, special assessments, or tax increases. The DDA saved significant fund balance over the years, with a plan to leverage it with foundational support to make significant investment in the downtown district. The DDA was able to fund the community input and design process and design engineering phase of the project with the funding it has set aside in anticipation of a streetscape redesign.
The proposal recommends changing three blocks of Main Street (Gordon to Rodd) from angled to parallel parking and will be determined by June. The remaining blocks of Main Street will still be angled parking. A total of six parking spots will be lost.
- The proposed plan changes the number of Main Street parking spaces from 156 to 150, a total loss of six parking space.
- The parallel parking being proposed will be larger than a normal parallel parking space by approximately 4 feet.
- There are 920 parking lot spaces and 343 on-street parking spaces in downtown Midland.
The City Forester and City Horticulturist have reviewed the mature trees in the downtown streetscape and are recommending replacement of the trees as part of the new streetscape for the following reasons:
- Existing trees are older and many are in poor health – they grow in a rough environment, with concrete/hardscape surroundings impacting proper root growth, and sidewalk salt each winter from piles of snow that get shoveled around the trees.
- Roots are currently heaving sidewalk – if trees are left as is, this will continue to cause damage to the new
- With amount of underground digging required for the new street scape installation, will risk cutting through larger roots which will compromise health of the trees and may cause death of the tree in a few years. Better to replace now than have to take down in 3 years and have to make repairs to surrounding area in the process.
- The existing trees are a messy variety for a downtown area. Existing trees drop berries and pods, causing safety concerns and issues with cleanliness.
- Installing new trees that use engineered soils or “tree cell”s designed to give trees optimal growing conditions in urban/street scape settings will provide for healthier downtown trees for the long term.
Over the course of three public input phases held between June 2 and August 13, 2016, more than 800 points of input were received, providing significant input and direction in brainstorming what downtown Midland should be, choosing concepts of what citizens like most, and collecting feedback on a draft streetscape plan being considered.
Over the course of three public input phases held between June 2 and August 13, more than 800 points of input were received, providing significant input and direction in brainstorming what the downtown Midland of tomorrow should look like. Input opportunities came in the form of focus group discussions for downtown stakeholders, public meetings where information and discussion opportunities were provided, online opportunities for those who couldn’t attend meetings and drop-in sessions for flexible schedules. Details of the input presented and received at each of these opportunities and streaming videos of meetings are available at www.cityofmidlandmi.gov/downtowndevelopment
The streetscape plan supports transitioning Ashman and Rodd Streets from one-way to two-way streets. This transition will not be part of the 2017 construction plan or funding. One-way streets are useful when trying to move high volumes of vehicles quickly in or out of an area, but are not ideal for pedestrian-oriented downtown environments.
The streetscape plan supports transitioning Ashman and Rodd Streets from one-way to two-way streets. This transition will not be part of the 2017 construction plan or funding. The Dig In Midland design works whether these streets are one-way or two-way. The recommendation is to transition these streets to two-way from Indian Street to Ann Street. Interest from the broader community to change the traffic pattern beginning at the Circle has also has been raised. This is a change that would need further study and consideration by the City.
Here are the reasons why the streetscape committee and DDA support of transition to two-way streets:
- One-way streets are useful when trying to move high volumes of vehicles quickly in or out of an area, but are not ideal for pedestrian-oriented downtown environments.
- One-way streets were historically useful to the downtown when The Dow Chemical Company had a significant presence in the downtown.
- Two-way traffic provides businesses with better visibility and more flexible customer access.
- Two-way streets are considered a best practice for encouraging urban retail uses.
- Two-way traffic is less confusing for visitors and makes it easier to direct travelers.
- Making Rodd two-way allows for an additional access point into downtown from Indian and Buttles.
- Making Rodd two-way allows for better access to the Larkin Parking Garage for motorists to park when coming into downtown. Many people currently do not see the parking garage until they are headed out of downtown.
- Rodd currently operates as an “exit street” from the downtown. Making it an entrance street may spur development on Rodd and extend the feel of the downtown to Townsend as well.
You can submit thoughts and comments on Dig In Midland to firstname.lastname@example.org, via postal mail at Midland City Hall 333 W. Ellsworth Street, Midland MI 48640 or by phone at 989-837-3304.
Although we’re sad to see them go after 20+ years of life, there are reasons why the trees can’t stay: they’re sick, stressed, and their growth was impacting the safety of our current streetscape.
We will be planting new trees that can both survive well in an urban environment and will also look beautiful in our downtown for many years. Several varieties of maple and elm, ginkgo, zelkova, and cherry trees will soon call downtown Midland home! But we’re going one step further with this new streetscape to ensure that both our new downtown and our trees are happy together: we’re utilizing a newer urban landscaping technology called Silva cells.
Silva cells are beneficial in a number of ways: 1) They give tree roots more space to grow in an urban setting, which means a healthier tree that lives longer; 2) They prevent tree roots from and prevent settling and seasonal pavement movement; and 3) They promote better stormwater runoff absorption during weather events. These cells can only be implemented during new construction, so the time is right for us to make this improvement.
So while we say goodbye to our current trees, we’re excited to be creating a healthier, happier environment where our residents can enjoy trees and where our trees can thrive.
While on street parking is unavailable on parts of Main and McDonald Streets, there is still plenty of parking downtown. Check the side streets like Ashman, Rodd & Larkin, or try down the hill near the farmers market. On evenings and weekends the Larkin Street Parking Garage has a lot of open spaces, as does the City’s B-Lot on the corner of Ashman and Larkin.