Photo courtesy Phoenix Contractors
Southgate Mayor Joseph Kuspa (right) was joined by city officials and planners as the vision of Southgate Market Park broke ground Wednesday. The open-air market, public pavilion and ampitheater will provide a community gathering place at the revitalized Southgate Shopping Center.
By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE — Mayor Joseph Kuspa stood before an empty field Wednesday to celebrate, “a day many years in the making.”
A ceremonial groundbreaking marked, he said, the beginning of a project first envisioned when the city’s economic future was in doubt.
Five years ago, Kuspa said, the concept of Southgate Market Park was born during the height of a national economic downturn. Sears had closed, and Southgate Shopping Center anchors Montgomery Ward and Farmer Jack had long been out of business. The complex was more than 70 percent vacant and surviving tenants were at risk of closure.
“The economic future of our city was uncertain,” Kuspa said.
Around that time a coffee shop conversation talked about the potential for the location at Eureka and Trenton roads. In 2010 the Downtown Development Authority held a visioning session that resulted in the concept of an open-air market, park and ampitheater with live entertainment.
“We needed to populate the area with a real presence, a place to congregate,” Kuspa said.
A variety of stakeholders launched a turnaround, Kuspa said, including Mickey Sisskind, owner of the former Montgomery Ward property who donated the acreage to the city and, as a bonus, financed its October 2012 demolition.
The location benefitted further with activity in the shopping center — Downriver Gymnastics took over the Farmer Jack space — and nearby with an expanded MJR Theatre. Those and other businesses stand to benefit from Market Park, a $450,000 project now entering final construction. Irrigation, lighting rehabilitation and the ampitheater represent the first phase of the project, which remained on schedule for hosting its first programs this year.
“Southgate’s cornerstone has and always will be that it’s a community,” Kuspa said. “A collective effort makes a real difference.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected].)
Graphic courtesy of the city of Southgate
Southgate Market Center Park will feature a variety of community-gathering sites including an ampitheater with terraced seating. Ground was broken last week for the $450,000 project first envisioned in 2009.