A host of Michigan communities — including Port Huron and Coldwater — are boasting projects that aimed to revitalize their local downtown as part of a contest the Michigan Municipal League calls its most prestigious honor.
According to a news release out Thursday, the city of Port Huron’s McMorran Plaza revitalization and Coldwater’s relocation of the Children’s Museum of Branch County outlined public-private partnerships in fundraising and efforts to reinvigorate local town centers.
Coldwater and Port Huron were among nine communities to submit projects to the statewide Community Excellence Award. Its concept this year centered around community wealth building and balancing prosperity, senses of place, natural assets, and cultural substance.
Port Huron is amid its second summer season hosting live entertainment, free public fitness classes, and additional events — in addition to free skating on a free seasonal ice rink and a splash pad for the warmer months — on the once-deserted downtown plaza after unveiling the $1 million revamp in 2022.
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City leaders have touted McMorran’s revitalization and the plaza revamp after several years of fundraising. It additionally renovated an interior meeting room adjacent to the plaza for Casey’s on the Plaza, a bar and entertainment establishment operated by Casey’s Pizza and Subs, also located downtown.
Meanwhile, Coldwater’s children’s museum reopened at a brand-new space with new exhibits and enlarged capacity in 6,000 square feet of a formerly vacant downtown storefront this spring following a $160,000 fundraising campaign.
According to Coldwater’s project impact, the children’s museum aims to ensure financial security for families and downtown businesses and boasts $5 general admission per person and discounts for groups of 10 or more, as well as reduced rates for families who receive SNAP benefits. Listed features included a stage for children to dress up and act out plays, special programs and STEAM-related classes and projects, plans to partner with the nearby Tibbits Opera House and Branch County District Library, and values backing financial literacy.
The other seven communities vying for the MML’s Community Excellence Award included Bridgman, Hart, Holland, Wayne, Grandville, Meridian Township, and Westland.
According to the league, a small voting board was expected to evaluate the projects and determine the top four finalists, which would go on to present and market their projects at the league’s October convention in Traverse City.
Information on the final four will be released on July 18. Convention attendees will vote on their favorite as the award recipient.
In a statement, Barb Ziarko, the president of MML’s board of trustees and a Sterling Heights councilmember, said, “Projects like these are vital to creating thriving communities across the state.”