Multi-million-dollar re-do of downtown Rochester’s Main St. begins

A major reconstruction project that started this week is shutting down Main Street in downtown Rochester and generating enthusiasm and dread at the same time.

The short-term pain – about three months of a complete closure of Main Street if construction goes as planned – is expected to lead to long-term gains. That is attracting customers and businesses to a smooth road and a downtown with new amenities.

It’s a mixed blessing for business owners who will have to wait out the inconvenience to their customers. The business owners are worried the road closure could keep customers away, but city planners are encouraging everyone to put the focus on the potential benefits.

There’s the practical: a smooth road; exposed, aggregate sidewalks; a replaced 1890s era water main. And then there are the extras, potential draws for customers and businesses: bike racks; decorative planters fashioned from the bricks excavated during construction; trees and plantings; benches; decorative, energy conserving street lights; and more components that will make up an inviting new streetscape for downtown.

In addition, it is likely that artifacts will be uncovered in the construction process. Those artifacts, possibly gas pumps, streetcar tracks and underground cistern, will be preserved, and there are plans to build an observation window onto the cistern for passersby – if not history-seeking-tourists-to see, Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority, says.

The Main Street Makeover, as it’s being called by the city’s Downtown Development Authority, began April 2 and should be completed in September. The Main Street closure will finish sooner, in July, and during the closure all sidewalks and parking lots, except for the one on Main Street, will be open. Parking on side streets will be free until the work is done.

The entire length of the road reconstruction, which in large part was driven by demands of the Michigan Department of Transportation to improve the worn road with an available federal grant, goes from the Clinton River Bridge to the Paint Creek Bridge. The complete Main Street closure runs from north of Second Street to south of University Drive.

Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director Rochester Downtown Development Authority, and Nik Banda, economic development director and assistant city manager, city of Rochester
Writer: Kim North Shine