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No Matter How You Say It, Frankenmuth Is, Ja! --Michigan's Top Destination

M.C. Smith Associates' Master Plan Is in Fifth Phase

Stephen Kelly, managing editor

Near the Historical Museum are abundant plantings of Anabelle hydrangea, Shasta daisy, sun flowers, Russian sage and sedum. Trickle irrigation lines within the light poles are an ingenious customized feature for the hanging flowers.

Willkommen to Frankenmuth--"Michigan's Little Bavaria"--the state's number one tourist attraction, draws three million visitors a year to its shopping (A-Maze-N Mirrors to Zeilinger Wool Company), dining (Bavarian Inn Restaurant to Willi's Sausage Company) and entertainment (the Cinema Hollywood to Michigan's Own Military & Space Museum).

It's time to dust off the lederhosen and head to the "world's largest Christmas store," home to "world-famous" chicken dinners, and numerous festivities, including Autofest, Oktoberfest, and, as you read this, the nine-day Summer Music Fest. Music Fest is a time for polka music (perhaps you didn't know there was a time for polka) and other old-world musical stylings from Poland, Germany and Solvenian. And to fortify the music lovers, Bavarian food-- meat, meat and more meat, with the occasional boiled vegetable slathered in butter and salt. Try the Weisswurst (white veal sausage eaten with a pretzel--Ja, pretzel, or bread and sweat mustard. Don't pass up the Leberkase (liver cheese), Schweinebraten mit Knodel (roast pork with dumpling), Rippchen (spare ribs), Schweinshax'n (pork knuckles--perhaps you can forgo that, and, of course, the gas-inducing topper, sauerkraut, all washed down with a cold Paulaner, Spaten or Lowenbrau and a little Apfel strudel for dessert.

Frankenmuth's new design was created with the pedestrian in mind. The sidewalks are now lined with groundcover, trees, hanging plants and interspersed with plaza areas to create room away from the traffic for people to sit and visit. Seatwalls, site amenities, wide, well-marked pedestrian crossings and ample lighting are also incorporated.

But wait, that's not all there is to Music Fest: The Hot Rods, no, that's not right, the Mag Wheels, no, that's not it either ... ah, the Hubcaps, yes, the Hubcaps will be on hand to offset the polka music with rock renderings from the '50s and '60s.

If you've ever listened to Garrison Keillor's stories on "Prairie Home Companion" about growing up Lutheran, you'll know that Frankenmuth wasn't Frankenmuth (continued from page 60) always so festive. It began as a missionary settlement of Bavarian Lutherans led by Rev. Friedrich August Craemer in 1847. The name derives from the Franconia region of Bavaria; the "muth" means "courage" in German. Frankenmuth, in case you're driving, is one of the four primary cities in Saginaw County, the others being Birch Run, Chesaning, and Saginaw (from hence hitchhiked Paul Simon in his poignant song "America").

Accentuating Frankenmuth's Bavarian influence is the two storied glockenspiel clock that intones six times daily, and the Herbert Keinath Memorial Fountain and Sculpture, which depicts five life-sized Bavarian children in traditional costumes circling about a maypole and accompanied by a hund, that's dog to you.

The area near the Bavarian Inn is characterized by the landscape architect as a European, geometric pattern. The stone seatwall and benches also reflect this ambiance. Feather reed grass, Korean spice viburnum, apple serviceberry, tatarian dogwood, bayberry and autumn blaze maples decorate the landscape.

Back in 1999, the city fathers saw the need to renovate the hardscapes and landscaping. When you're the state's top attraction, the motivation is there. Enter M. C. Smith Associates and Architectural Group, Inc. (MCSA), of East Grand Rapids, Michigan, retained by the city to develop master Frankenmuth (continued from page 62) plans, construction documents and construction administration services for multiple phase streetscape improvements. The MCSA Group is an award-winning professional design firm formed in 1977 by Michael C. Smith. Mr. Smith is president; Donald Smalligan and James DeWilde are vice presidents. The firm has a staff of over 20, including architects and landscape architects.

How to you proceed with such a project? We asked M.C. Smith. He acknowledged the usual design workshops and town meetings to develop the master plans. One clearly wasn't going to stray far from Frankenmuth's Bavarian heritage, nor impede the community's identity with Christmas and gift giving.

"The design vocabulary for this streetscape project, while avoiding a cute Bavarian theme, relied on traditional materials, paving patterns and elements which would be appropriate with the variety of thematic commercial architecture," Mr. Smith explained. He noted that visitors who regularly visit Frankenmuth expect to see displays of annual flowers. "The various streetscape phases all relied heavily on seasonal plantings. A variety of custom-designed street and pedestrian scale lighting was integral to developing a cohesive and consistent visual tie throughout the entire shopping district."

The major challenge for this project was building a design consensus. The city personnel and the many business owners had, naturally, varying opinions. The other challenges were working with and around the existing infrastructure, utilities and site conditions, including the grades and buildings.

The sidewalk that used to run along the busy road is now incorporated into a plaza buffered by plantings of Russian sage, sedum, Shasta daisies, sun flowers and pear trees.

Fortunately, MCSA had the design experience and skills to point the parties in the right direction. The master planning incorporates custom single and double-fixtures atop pole lighting; modular paver walks and crosswalks; mast-arm traffic signals; poles, arches and rails; decorative screen walls; site amenities (benches, tree grates, receptacles); deciduous canopy trees; and ornamental plantings.

The project is now in its fifth phase, Paul Reinhold told LASN. This phase involves street lighting, paving accents and boulevard islands for Weiss Street, a side street that is looking to boost its commercial possibilities. Mr. Reihhold joined MCSA in 1999, about the time work began on the Frankenmuth project. He has been responsible for the construction administration and documentation.

What better figures for a fountain than children who apparently have steeled away from the attention of their parents to cavort in the water? The combination of colors and materials is striking. The blue tint of the water and figures, the red Hanover pavers, the Glen-Gery brick beyond and the splash of yellow flowers (Helianthemum).

The design results, seen in this layout, speak for themselves. It is sure to keep Frankenmuth the number one destination in Michigan for a long time.

The attractive Gunzenhausen Platz with Zehnder's Restaurant (left) in the background, incorporates Hanover modular pavers with concrete banding. The seat wall has CMU core with cultured stone veneer and caps of cast stone from Architectural Art Stone. The oolitic limestone blocks, cut by Kawkawlin Stone from Kawkawlin, Michigan were designed as a base for granite obelisks, being phased out for budget reasons. The annual plantings at the hub's center are super petunias and verbeena patriot mix; the tree is a saucer magnolia

The regular visitors to Frankenmuth expect to see the annual flowers, including the flowering trees like these serviceberries.

Willkommen to Michigan's Little Bavaria. The flag poles from Delta Steel are just some of the personalized touches of M.C. Smith Associates and Architectural Group.

Paving Materials

Unilock, Brighton, MI
Series 3000 Architectural Pavers
6x6 and 12x12
Huron Rose
6x6 and 12x12
Coral Gem

Hanover Architectural Products, Hanover PA
Traditional Series with Tudor Finish
6x6 and 12x12 #B91765
6x6 #B91766
6x6 #B92455

Glen-Gery Brick,
4x8 Cocoa
4x8 Old Smokie

Another view of Gunzenhausen Platz. The lights here are from Spring City.


Architectural Art Stone, Kansas City, MO
cast stone wall caps
custom design by MCSA, color: 5th

Stone Products Corporation, Napa, CA
faux stone wall veneer--cultured stone
Buckeye Limestone
Great lakes

Natural Stone
Limestone base: Indiana Oolitic

Along Main Street, MCSA specified 160 single-fixture lights and 43 twin-fixture lights from Architectural Area Lighting. MCSA customized the tops. In addition, 125 Union Metal light poles and Union Metal traffic signal mast arms were used.

Site Furniture

Landscape Forms, Kalamazoo, MI
6' Plainwell with wood slats

Victor Stanley, Dunkirk, Maryland
litter receptacles
Model S-42 Ironsites
36 gallon

FairWeather Site Furnishings, Port Orchard, WA
tree grates
48" square: STA-48
tree planters
custom design by MCSA

Even where there is little room between Main Street and the sidewalk, red maples and the purple spikes of Liatris spicata provide good separation between the pedestrians and the traffic.


Architectural Area Lighting, Inc., La Mirada, CA
14' fluted pole with single fixture, custom design by MCSA
16' fluted pole with twin fixture, custom design by MCSA

Union Metal Corporation, Canton, OH
26' tapered octa-flute steel pole

Kim Lighting Inc., City of Industry, CA
fixture: Archetype AR

Spring City Electrical Manufacturing Co., Spring City, PA
14' fluted steel pole: SBHB18-W with EFHB luminare

Planting Material


  • Acer griseum-Paperbark Maple
  • Carpinus betulis 'Fastigiata'-Hornbeam
  • Cercidiphyllum japonicum-Katsura Tree
  • Malus lollipop-Crabapple
  • Tilia cordata-Littleleaf Linden


  • Cornus alba 'Baileyi'-Royal Purple Smoketree
  • Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'-Annabelle Hydrangea
  • Ilex verticillata 'Southern Gentleman'-S. Gentleman Winterberry
  • Ilex verticillata 'Winter Red'-Winter Red Winterberry
  • Juniperus chinensis 'Mint julep'-Mint Julep Juniper Juniperus scopulorum 'Wichata Blue'-Wichata Blue Juniper
  • Myrica pensylvanica-Northern Bayberry
  • Spiraea japonica 'Little Princess'-Little Princess Spiraea
  • Taxus cuspidata 'Nana'-Dwarf Japenese Yew
  • Viburnum plicatum tomentosum 'Shasta'- Wine & Roses Weigela
  • Weigela florida 'Alexandra'-Wine & Roses Weigela


  • Anemone hupehensis 'Japonica'-Japanese Thimbleweed
  • Baptisia australis-Blue Wild Indigo
  • Calamagrostis x acutifolia 'Karl Foerster'-Feather Reed Grass
  • Delphinium elatum 'Black Knight'-Black Knight Delphinium
  • Digitalis mertonensis-Digitalis Mertonensis
  • Echinops rito-Southern Globethistle
  • Heliopsis helianthoides-Sunflower Heliopsis
  • Leucanthemum superbum 'Thomas Killen'-Thomas Killen Shasta Daisy
  • Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegatus'-Variegated Japenese Silver Grass
  • Perovskia atriplicifolia-Russian Sage
  • Platycodon grandiflorus-Balloon Flower
  • Sedum spectabile 'Brilliant'-Brilliant Stonecrop

Given that Christmas shoppers flock to Frankenmuth, a star (copper) motif seemed appropriate for the arches from Delta Steel Inc., custom designed by MCSA. The large tree in the distance framed by the arch is a maple. Green vase Zelkova are the trees on the opposite side of the roadway.

Frankenmuth Streetscape - Project Information

Landscape Architect
M. C. Smith Associates and Architectural Group, Inc.
East Grand Rapids, Michigan
Project Completion Dates
Multiple phases - 2000 through 2004. Phase 5 is currently underway.
Project Costs
Over $7,000,000
Frankenmuth Streetscape-Design Development Team
Project Master Planning Design, Construction Documents and Administration Services.
M. C. Smith Associates and Architectural Group, Inc. Grand Rapids, Michigan
Construction Management
R. C. Hendricks & Sons, Inc. Saginaw, Michigan
Electrical Distribution Engineering
Premier Engineering Grand Rapids, Michigan
Plant Materials
Frankenmuth Horticultural Department

M. C. Smith Associates and Architectural Group, Inc.

M. C. Smith Associates and Architectural Group, Inc. is an award-winning professional design firm formed in March 1977 by the firm's president, Michael Smith. Vice presidents are Donald Smalligan and James DeWilde. The firm has a staff of over 15 in the East Grand Rapids office.

MCSA provides professional services in:

  • downtown planning and streetscape design
  • park and recreation planning and design
  • sports and athletic facilities planning and design
  • comprehensive architectural services
  • land use development master planning
  • site development planning and engineering
  • construction administration

MCSA also has consultants for specialized portions of specific projects, which extends its capabilities to traffic engineering, surveying, soils analysis and structural design; and mechanical and electrical engineering.

Michael C. Smith
principal and president
M. C. Smith Associates and Architectural Group, Inc.

Harvard University, Graduate School of Design, M.L.A., 1974
Michigan State University, B.S.L.A., 1972

Professional Experience:
M. C. Smith, 1977 to date
Miller, Wihry & Lee, Inc., firm senior associate and director of landscape architecture, Louisville, Kentucky, 1974-1977

Sasaki, Dawson, DeMay Associates, Inc., Watertown Mass., 1973-1974

Grand Rapids Park
Department Design Office, summers, 1971, 1972
Grand Rapids Planning Department, summer, 1970

Professional and Civic Activities:
Member, American Society of Landscape Architects
Registered Landscape Architect, State of Michigan
Visiting Lecturer, Michigan State University,
Member, Michigan Recreation and Park Association

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November 20, 2019, 1:43 pm PDT

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