Prologue: In 2024, construction will begin on the new pedestrian walkway connecting the riverfront near Dow Diamond to the old 4D site. The Community Foundation supported this project with a million-dollar gift in 2018 – the largest singular gift in the Foundation’s history. Paul Barbeau and Bill Schuette were both instrumental in bringing the new walkway to Downtown. The project will be essential for connectivity in Downtown Midland.
For more information about this project, please visit the Poseyville Riverfront Restoration section of the City’s website.
Paul Barbeau & Bill Schuette – In Their Own Words, Documented by Phil Eich
“The Michigan Baseball Foundation was started by Bill Stavropoulos in 2006 to create economic development and vibrancy in and around Downtown Midland. While it has done things like building Dow Diamond and bringing professional baseball to the market, it also looks beyond the walls of the stadium. When a big anchor project happens in a community, it should be catalytic by inspiring other investments and activities that will continue to positively impact the community.
The 4D site used to be a cement block manufacturing plant but was no longer active and contributing to the City. The City of Midland received a FEMA grant to relocate the plant, and ownership of the property was transferred to the City with the mandate that it be restored to its natural state. The Baseball Foundation believed that we should maximize the unique assets Downtown Midland has, and the river is clearly a unique asset. So, a conversation began about what to do with it.
It’s in the floodplain, so you’re limited with what can be done, but by creating a natural habitat, we also create a natural water management system, and water has a place to go other than flooding streets. But we also wanted it to be an accessible area connected to Downtown so people could easily enjoy it, and that’s where the idea of a pedestrian bridge [walkway] came in. The bridge [walkway] will create a loop to get to that area from the ballpark and then loop back and connect with the Tridge or the other trail systems. It’s 440 feet long, the steel has been manufactured, and the mound for placing the bridge [walkway] will be built around May of 2024.
Along with the wetlands and park, there will be a pavilion for events. We’re going to name the pavilion after Alan Ott, someone who’s done so much for Midland. It’s important to honor the great men and women who have helped build Midland into a strong community, so we’re cleaning up the environment, adding something to the community, and naming the pavilion after Alan.
It’s important for any community to have high-quality amenities. Recreation is important. Places to do things outside are important. Having green space is important. This project takes an abandoned concrete plant and turns it into a fun place, another area to use for public and private events.
This project is demonstrative of the roots and commitment that run deep within this community, and partnership has really been the keyword to pulling it off – that includes everyone from the federal government with the FEMA grant to the City of Midland (who owned the property), to the philanthropic and business communities and their contributions that will make the project successful. Partnership between all of those entities has led us to where we are.
I think that the Midland Area Community Foundation is a catalyst for economic growth as it makes investments that allow Midland to reshape itself and enhance the quality of life here. From my perspective, Sharon Mortensen’s done a really masterful job of being current, thoughtful, and broad-minded.
The Foundation doesn’t play games—it’s ready to get to work and help our community. The Midland Area Community Foundation has given the largest [singular] gift in its 50-year history to this project—and we’re all incredibly thankful for that—but it does more than funding. Making a community always requires successful partnerships, and the Midland Area Community Foundation is a great convener of individuals, businesses, and other foundations to help move forward anything that makes the community stronger for everyone.”
—Paul Barbeau and Bill Schuette