Riverfront Saginaw isn’t just a name or an organization, it’s also a place...and it’s the future of Saginaw.
Like many large urban centers, Saginaw has undergone transformations throughout its lifetime. A one-time lumber town leader made way for the auto industry through much of the 20th century, but in recent years it has moved away from manufacturing and become something more — a vibrant center of learning, entertainment, culture and growth for the Great Lakes Bay Region.
“It’s a happening place,” said Riverfront Saginaw board member and Saginaw Spirit President Craig Goslin. “The millennials love it down here.”
Riverfront Saginaw is officially defined as the riverfront corridor from The Dow Event Center south to the Saginaw Children’s Zoo across the river to Old Town Saginaw north to the Covenant.
After local auto worker jobs left, the area fell on hard times, but thanks in large part to the taxpayers, it’s all coming back.
At the turn of the century, they approved a millage to keep and improve what was formerly known as the Saginaw Civic Center and turn it into a center of world-class entertainment known as The Dow Event Center.
Jerry Seinfeld, Kansas, Katy Perry, Miranda Lambert, monster trucks and more have brought thousands of people to the area for their performances, while the Saginaw Spirit hockey club just welcomed their 2 millionth fan to The Dow.
“Once the millage was passed, it became a real world entertainment complex again,” former Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce President Bob Van Deventer said.
That progress has only grown.
“There are developers now that are looking at some of the buildings down here to develop, where 10 years ago, no one was,” Van Deventer added.
The old Eddy and Bancroft buildings have been refurbished as luxury apartments, and permanent high-end houses have recently been constructed just across the riverfront in Old Town with the Riverview Brownstones constructions on Hamilton Street.
In addition to The Dow — and it’s outside event venue Huntington Event Park — local patrons are also treated to the arts at the historic Temple Theatre, Andersen Enrichment Center and museums, while the Saginaw Children’s Zoo and Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum provide education and entertainment for the area’s younger visitors.
“The agreement between Central Michigan University and Covenant and St. Mary’s to actually have the College of Medicine here was another big step,” Van Deventer said.
The college’s just graduated its first class of doctors who finished their studies in Riverfront Saginaw.
It’s easy to see why the district known as Riverfront Saginaw is coming back in such a big way with thousands of people regularly coming to the area for concerts, games and the arts, not even taking into account the scores of events occurring within its borders during the warmer months.
That in turn has seen a growth in Riverfront area restaurants and beverage dispensaries with new hot spots such as Old Town Distillery and Oracle Brewing joining the likes of The Savoy, Jake’s Old City Grill and Dawn of a New Day Coffee House — and many more — as can’t miss places to grab a bite.
“People are personally interested in Riverfront Saginaw, and they want to see (the area) succeed,” Van Deventer said.
And it’s just going to keep growing.
In 2018, Riverfront Saginaw opening of the SVRC Marketplace as the headquarters hub for multiple area businesses in the old Saginaw News building, as well as housing the Farmer’s Market. In 2019, Delta College opened its new satellite campus in Riverfront Saginaw next to WNEM TV5 studios, which is projected to bring a thousand students to the district on a daily basis.
“We’ve just scratched the surface of where we’re going as a community,” Goslin said.