The city of Port Huron will host weekend music at the McMorran Plaza this summer when features for its long-awaited, million-dollar revamp make an official debut.
McMorran Place Manager Rob Churchill said they’re still waiting on a few details, like testing the plaza’s splash pad once the ground isn’t frozen and putting a railing on an elevated stage. The refrigerator system to host the eventual wintertime ice loop is also still on order, he said.
But most features and several others that will newly connect McMorran’s indoor memorial room to a plaza bier garden, officials said, are so far slated to be in place by the first weekend in June.
“The east end of the wall, we’re going to put a window with a sliding door there. So, you can walk right out into the bier garden,” Churchill said Wednesday.
Earlier that morning, the McMorran Place Commission signed off on spending up to $75,000 for construction services for work in the memorial room area to help put access to that area of the plaza. The commission also OK’d hiring a contractor to operate a bar in that room, as well as new indoor dining furniture and final features for the fire pit on the plaza’s south side.
Officials largely lauded incorporating the memorial room and its bar into the plaza, particularly for when performers are on stage, as a new entry point to the bier garden would allow visitors in the memorial room to still enjoy live entertainment.
That’s in addition to the plaza’s existing inclusion in the city’s social district that allows adults to consume alcoholic drinks in to-go cups outdoors along Main Street.
said bands will perform on either the main plaza stage or in the bier garden every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday starting in June until Labor Day.
“Last year, they did the downtown summer concert stuff, as well, so we just added our plaza on to that this year,” he said. “But it was always kind of planned.”
Downtown Development Authority Director Natacha Hayden said the initiative at the plaza lines up with the DDA’s goals in exposing the community to festivities and local businesses. She called the additional entertainment in the summer months “an exciting new element.”
“Not only will there be consistent programing at McMorran each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at the Plaza,” Hayden said in an email, “but Friday nights will have entertainment at both Quay Street Park and the Military Street Pocket Park.”
After a long wait, excitement for plaza grows
Plans to revamp the McMorran Plaza with new features — leaving the Night and Day Fountain and its iconic statues untouched — began more than three years ago with grant funds and design work. Minor foundational work cleared the site in late 2020, and major construction began last year.
Now, local leaders admit it’s nice to be so close to wrapping those plans up.
“It feels great to start to get to the finish line,” said Nancy Winzer, the city’s parks and recreation director. “COVID played apart in holding us back on this, btu we do want to make this the centerpiece downtown.”
Mayor Pro Tem Sherry Archibald, City Council’s member on the McMorran commission, was excited, too.
Earlier on in the process, which included a discussion in 2020 to re-engineer plaza plans when a price tag came back higher than expected, Archibald said the effort fell in with a broader push to breathe life back into McMorran and bring people downtown.
“What we have struggled with (is) this is a family building that (was) underutilized,” she said. “How do we take advantage of the McMorran Place complex out front? The statues are beautiful, the foundation is fabulous, but nobody really sat there, right? … Those are things we were all looking for. It just went from there. That was the idea of the plaza. The entertainment was if we have a stage, we wanted to ut
ilize that. Nancy and her team got to (work).”
But the plaza finish and live entertainment also come after City Council OK’d an effort to bring free fitness or yoga classes through the YMCA to the outdoor space along Huron Avenue.
All of it, combined with Wednesday’s smaller expenditures that she wagered would allow visitors to grab a cocktail and socialize, would only further bolster downtown, Archibald said.
“Then, of course, during the day, we’ll have the splash pad,” she said. “… It’s really adding one more thing to bring people downtown to frequent the bars, the restaurant, and businesses.”
Winzer shared a similar sentiment, adding the city would have more program details soon.
“The new season’s going to be coming out probably in the next week or so,” she said.
Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.
This article originally appeared on Port Huron Times Herald: New McMorran Plaza opens this summer with weekly live entertainment