Saline City Council approved the remaining elements of the 2016 downtown streetscape project at Monday’s meeting. Council voted 7-0 to approve 14-by-9-foot tree planters at each of the four corners at Michigan Avenue and Ann Arbor Street. The planters will be rectangular and be made of a “natural stone” that fits with the character of the historic downtown.
The sheer size of the tree planters concerned members of Saline City Council, Saline Main Street and some downtown business owners. Only two weeks ago, the plans included four 20-feet long planters.
After hearing council’s concerns two weeks ago Paul Reinhold of AECOM, the company designing the streetscape, appeared before city council with plans for smaller planters. He had drawings of 16-by-10 foot (the golden ratio) planters that would be large enough to accommodate roots as the trees mature.
Council members Janet Dillon, David Rhoads and Terri Sibo-Koenig expressed concerns about the size of the planters, which will double as benches.
Saline Main Street Executive Director Riley Hollenbaugh and Main Street Design Team Chairperson Rebecca Schneider spoke to council about the concerns of downtown business owners. Hollenbaugh told city council that the owners of Brecon Grille, Dan’s and Mac’s were concerned that the large planters would impact sidewalk cafés.
Reinhold told city council that three of the four planters would be 16-by-10-feet. The fourth, in front of Key Bank, would be a little smaller, at 14 feet long.
That gave Sibo-Koenig what she needed to swing the argument.
“If the planter on the northwest corner can be a little smaller, couldn’t they all be smaller? That would seem like a better dimension to me?” she asked Reinhold.
Rhoads supported Sibo-Koenig’s idea.
Council members also discussed the material of the planter. Reinhold recommended a cultured stone. Sibo-Koenig said she thought that was a mistake and supported Saline Main Street’s recommendation of a brick face.
“I fully support all of the recommendations of Saline Main Street. I think cultured stone is a mistake,” she said.
Sibo-Koenig said the brick would be a better fit for a downtown where people have gone to great lengths to restore buildings using original and natural materials.
“And we expect to see more buildings preserved and restored,” she said.
Reinhold said he thought the brick wouldn’t stand out. Rhoads agreed with Reinhold.
Council eventually agreed on a “natural stone” face for the planter.
The $1.3 million streetscape project is being funded by about $600,000 from the city, $540,000 from a transportation grant, and $175,000 by MDOT.