Streetscape preserves downtown’s heritage
In 1990, the Plymouth Downtown Development Authority (DDA) in Michigan began planning for Streetscape, a project designed to preserve the district’s heritage by correcting its cumulative maintenance problems in a manner that would enhance and preserve the architectural flavor of the area.
Begun in May 1995 and slated for completion in early 1996, the project will revitalize the district’s landscape and improve pedestrian and traffic safety on Main Street and surrounding roads. Planners say the renovation is an important step in securing the city’s potential for continued economic growth.
The DDA envisioned the project in 1983, but it was not until 1990 when plans were begun that the authority had defined the project’s key objective as improving the aesthetics and safety of the district in a cost-effective, timely manner.
“Although Plymouth’s downtown district has been increasingly successful, we want to guarantee that our city still will be meeting the expectations of our residents and consumers well into the 21st century,” DDA Director Steve Guile says. “By implementing a public improvement program today, we hope to instill more civic pride and strengthen our business district to assure a prosperous future for our city.”
An influx of traffic due to downtown’s renewed commercial vitality had created a need for better sidewalks and streets. As part of the project, worn street surfaces will be repaired with extensive milling, revealing the original brick of the roads that will be used as a foundation for a new paved roadway.
Additionally, in response to concerns of property owners, the existing uneven sidewalks will be completely replaced by a high-tech complex of concrete brick heated sidewalks. (A central boiler will heat the sidewalks, preventing snow and ice accumulation.) “The streets of downtown Plymouth will combine the best of both worlds — the technology of a big city with the charm of a small town,” Guile says.
Other improvements, including pedestrian islands and more space on street corners, will improve public safety. Existing lights will be replaced by 163 new Madison erastyled streetlights similar to those in New York City’s Central Park. Landscape beautification is another component of the renovation that is important to the success of the project. The DDA plans to create a visual atmosphere just as individualized as the merchants within it. “The variety of merchandise available in downtown Plymouth is one of the city’s greatest assets,” Guile says. “Streetscape will embrace the area’s diversity by creating an atmosphere that will both visually and functionally complement its existing resources.”
Honey locust trees surrounded by flower beds will accentuate the sidewalks and provide shade without obscuring the building faces or obstructing traffic. Benches and planters will be interspersed throughout the area, creating a pleasant atmosphere for both shopping and relaxation.
An information kiosk will be erected as well to aid newcomers and tourists. Although not part of the project, renovations to the landmark Mayflower Hotel are underway. The city also will continue to host a number of special events during Streetscape, including Midnight Madness, Music Celebration, Fall Festival and Artrageous.
“The preservation of a visually appealing and accessible downtown benefits both Plymouth residents and visitors,” Guile notes. “Streetscape will distinguish us from other cities, reinforcing our position as a thriving mercantile district. It will make Plymouth an even better place in which to live, work and visit and to leave behind for future generations.”