Midlanders share mixed ideas for future of Buttles Street corridor

Council concludes first meeting of 2021


On Monday night, Midland City Council heard a mix of support and opposition from residents about reducing a lane of Buttles Street.

With an upcoming reconstruction of the corridor planned by Michigan Department of Transportation, Monday’s meeting was the public’s last opportunity to provide input on the future design. The conversation and studies in recent years have focused on the three-lane corridor, which runs adjacent to downtown Midland but connects major roadways, being reduced to two lanes.

While the conversation and studies have focused on Buttles Street, MDOT Media Representative Jocelyn Hall said the plan is to reconstruct both portions of the corridor, including Indian Street.

Monday night, seven residents spoke in opposition to a lane reduction on Buttles, while another four expressed their support.

Megan Yezak explained that she lived in the adjacent downtown neighborhood for 20 years and while she was in favor of increasing pedestrian crosswalks and improving the sidewalks, she did not agree with the objective of slowing traffic down in the corridor by reducing lanes. She said it was inappropriate to try and impede traffic on a major state roadway.

“As I have always used (U.S. 10 Business Route), and as the people who I know are its primary users — some of them by the way are not city residents and not represented by the city council… — they’re relying on this as an efficient, safe, effective way to quickly move traffic through,” she said.

Resident Paul Ries, though he was in favor of downtown development, was not convinced that reducing a lane on Buttles would have the desired effect.

“To think that by changing the number of lanes on the roads you’re suddenly going to have millennials and that go downtown — I think there needs to be something down there for them,” he said.

Resident Ron Parmele also said reducing lanes would not be the best solution, but rather suggested better enforcement of the posted speed limit on Buttles.

Chris Allemang said he and his wife “are those millennials” that others were talking about attracting, and his opinion was that Indian and Buttles are a barrier for going downtown due to the fast speed of traffic. He wanted to see a fusion of downtown with the neighborhoods on the other side of the U.S. 10 Business Route corridor.

“Taking it down or slowing it down would make these — where we are in the unofficial ‘Midtown’ area as they call it — it would make these homes and these neighborhoods more attractive,” he said. “And really, it would emphasize the family-friendly, accessible community-driven nature of this town.”

Bob Plishka also felt a redesign would make access to downtown safer and promote downtown growth.

“Talent, attraction and retention should be a paramount importance for Midland and providing a more accessible and welcoming access point to downtown in this area should strengthen downtown as premiere location in the city,” he said.

Emily Schafer said “it just made sense” and  Terri Trotter, president and CEO of Midland Center for the Arts, said it could help make the short walk to the center easier and more enjoyable, connecting the city’s amenities.

In addition, Parmele and Eric Anders, self-proclaimed “biggest nemesis to this whole idea,” were still concerned with where the idea of two lanes came from.

“This is something that you should just let this die and decide on another way to meet your five objective goals,” Anders told the council.

The council did not make any formal action on the road design Monday; however, a decision is expected to be made at the next council meeting on Monday, Jan. 25.

“I appreciate everybody who chose to write in and those who chose to speak tonight,” Councilman Steve Arnosky said. “Obviously, some of the comments were repeat comments but it’s been over a year since we actually received any comments, so I think it’s good to provide us different sides of the argument here.”

Other council actions taken Monday night include:

• Unanimously approved a $305,000 amendment to the city’s General Fund budget to recognize additional activity in engineering deposit projects. Specifically, it will cover costs for city inspections on public assets/infrastructure during commercial development construction projects.

• Unanimously approved a Center City Lofts, a new low-income housing project that will be built at 2710 and 2712 Jefferson Ave. The three-story complex will have 55 units and be constructed using mid-century modern principles in building materials and architecture.

• Unanimously approved the six objectives of the 2021-2022 fiscal year city budget, which included keeping the millage rate the same as last year at 15.1385 mils.

• Unanimously approved new, expanded holiday schedule and hours for the Dial-A-Ride Transportation service.