2014 Proves To Be a Pivotal Year for Community Developments in Bay City & Saginaw

Posted In: Culture, Community Profiles,   From Issue 802   By: Matt deHeus

26th December, 2014     0

The biggest event in Bay City this year is the completion of the first phase of the Uptown Project on the East Bank of the Saginaw River.  The planned 43 acre development, which has been several years in the making, began moving in its first tenants the 4th quarter of 2014.  The SSP Associates development project will be anchored by several large employers that will have offices in the complex, including Dow Corning, Chemical Bank and McLaren Medical.

Local businesspeople, such as Jack Rechsteiner, with The Fix coffee shop, and Vince Stuart, with The Uptown Grill, have also found opportunities among the bright new facades of Uptown.
The hope is that developments like Uptown and the new Mill End building, completed last year, will provide a shot in the arm to the downtown area.  With 400 to 500 new people working in the Uptown complex, it could be a boon to several of the local retail districts and even to the historical housing district, with new residents looking kindly on the affordable stock of classic housing available in the area.

Just down the street from the newest buildings in the city, big changes took place in one of the Bay City’s oldest buildings – City Hall. The first of these events was, in fact, a reopening of the building, which had been restored after a 2012 fire and subsequent water damage  left the 1890’s vintage building a mess. 

During the shutdown, government offices and services were scattered to a number of temporary facilities across the City.  The restored City Hall is a marvel that features many of the details that separate the architecture of yesteryear from its modern descendants.

Inside City Hall there were also changes,, as Richard (Rick) Finn took over the job of City Manager.  The job had been vacant since the departure of Robert Belleman for a job with Saginaw County in late 2012.  Finn had previously served in City administrations in New York, Maryland, Ohio and Wisconsin.

While the Uptown development is full of glamour and hope, the fact is that Bay City has all of the same challenges of most medium sized Midwestern towns.  Between roads, utilities, unfunded liabilities, workforce issues, etc., the new manager has his hands full. 

While the recruitment and negotiations resulting in Finn’s appointment was a feature of local debate for a time, the new Administration has gotten its feet wet – literally – with problems relating to water.  Between a major water leak that turned out to be an averted emergency and discrepancies with water bills with a less than smooth roll out of new metering technology, the problem solving skills of the new administration were placed front and center.

Most reviews of Finn, who presented his strategic plan to Commissioners in November, have been good.  He has proven to be visible in the community and accessible to residents and to City staff.  It is apparent in the plans presented and in the local dialogue that all understand  this is a critical period for the City.  If there is an expectation that Bay City is going to use developments like Uptown and Mill End as a springboard, the infrastructure and services must also be in place to support the vision.

On the electoral front, the message across the County is that not much has changed.   Incumbents swept most of the November races across the county.  This fact is not necessarily a good or bad thing by itself.  Of more interest is the fact that so many races really didn’t feature a competition, with candidates often running unopposed or with as many candidates as there were slots in races for local boards, commissions and judicial spots. 

These events might be a result of complete satisfaction with the current community leaders, but is more likely another sign of apathy with the political process across the nation across the nation, as fewer voters show up to vote for fewer and fewer candidates.

When one thinks of community events in Bay City, it is probably more of festivals and beer tents than board meetings and political campaigns.  In an area well known for its festivals, the Hells Half Mile Film and Music Festival has really begun to separate itself from the pack in the last few years.  The support from the business community is obvious during festival week, as signs, banners and specials adorn many local shops.  In addition to the original offering of a “long weekend” of independent film and music, the organization now also features a number of other musical and theatrical fundraising events throughout the year.  The festival has grown to be a real force in Bay City, drawing interest and tourist dollars from around the region, as well as giving locals something homespun and fun to do.

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