Nearly a decade after the construction of the Interstate 96 interchange on Latson Road in the municipality of Genoa, the facility continues to shape the face of the area.
The interchange was built and Latson Road was extended south in 2012-2013. Since then, new developments have emerged, including a new medical center and hotel, and several businesses and housing units. Additional vacant land will be ordered for better development in the future.
Traffic patterns were dramatically impacted as the Latson Road traffic count skyrocketed, while traffic on Chilson Road, which used to be the preferred route for more people, relaxed.
As city officials and its more than 20,000 residents look to the future of this area, a review of the past and a look at the present give some clues as to what might come next.
It is no longer a county with “two lights”
Bill Rogers moved to the county as a child in the late 1960s. Remember only two traffic lights across the county.
“Most of it was farmland. Howell was the county seat, but it didn’t expand much beyond Main Street,” said Rogers, a Genoa county supervisor and former Republican state representative and county commissioner. .
As the county grew, Grand River Avenue in the municipality of Genoa changed. Large box stores, including Meijer and Walmart, came to town in the 1990s. Shopping malls were built and land began to be filled.
Prior to the interchange, Latson Road ended north of I-96. It did not spread along the road as it does today. It was an access point to some things, like Latson Road Elementary School, which closed in 2011 to make way for the interchange.
South of the road, the road was called Nixon.
Rogers said the Latson Road interchange project was motivated by the need for more road access points along I-96.
He said the discussion focused on “how to get a better access point anywhere up and down I-96 to get to some of those places without piling up downtown Howell or downtown Brighton.”
When the exchange began, Rogers was the state representative for District 42. His brother is former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, who helped raise federal funds for the exchange project. The $ 32 million exchange was paid for with federal, state and local funds.
What came after the exchange
Galaxy VR Arcade co-owner Brandon Messerschmidt said he and his son Aidyn looked at a couple of places on Grand River Avenue before deciding to open a virtual reality arcade in a mall southeast of the intersection of Grand River Avenue and Latson Road.
“It certainly looks busier here than on the road. Down here it seems to have more traffic,” Messerschmidt said.
The largest new addition to the corridor is the 60,000-square-foot Ascension Medical Center, which opened at the northeast corner of the interchange in 2017. It offers family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics, gynecology and pediatrics services.
The three-story center is on the site of the former Latson Road Elementary, which was demolished in 2014 before St. John Providence bought the property.
A four-story hotel at the Hampton Inn and Suites was built near the intersection of Grand Oaks Drive and Latson Road.
The hotel was built on a 2½-acre plot on a larger plot known as a Livingston Commons unit development, which includes a Lowe’s and Walmart. A USA2Go gas station, a convenience store and Tim Hortons attached to the development came in after the interchange. More ground could be developed there in the future.
Latson Road also has a Flagstar bank and gastronomic establishments have been opened near the Grand River Avenue interchange, including Eternity Brewing Co., Taco Street, Culver’s and Panera.
Megan Mischi, manager of Eternity Brewing Co., said she believes being close to a freeway interchange helps the business.
“We have a sign for the I-96 freeway, and that really helps us. We have a lot of people from all over who make visits to the brewery,” Mischi said.
He said the exhibition is particularly useful because Eternity Brewing Co. it’s a little rolled up in your mall.
Beyond commercial growth, the municipality of Genoa has benefited from greater accessibility since the interchange was built.
County Commissioner Carol Griffith, a lifelong resident of Genoa City, recalls when residents had to drive to Howell or Brighton to get on the freeway or just to get groceries.
“Something we overlook is that it’s a big benefit to public safety,” Griffith said. “If you need an ambulance or the sheriff to come home, they can get there in minutes.”
Daniel Bromley, a Byron resident who lived in Howell for nearly 25 years, also noted the fastest emergency response after the exchange was built.
“This intersection, as a worker at a gas company, was the best in history,” said Bromley, who worked for Consumers Energy at Howell.
Bromley said the interchange facilitated the response to a gas emergency because it could drive directly down Latson Road instead of taking Chilson Road and other smaller roads.
Located between Howell and Brighton, the town of Genoa offers easy access to large shops and restaurants, while maintaining its rural appearance. The vast majority of the municipality’s land is zoned for single-family homes and agriculture, along with park space near the larger lakes.
The exchange has also helped travelers and, in turn, has attracted residents who work in towns such as Brighton, Ann Arbor and Detroit, but want the rural setting offered by the municipality of Genoa. According to the United States Census Bureau, the average commute time to work for residents of the municipality of Genoa is 28 minutes.
Increased accessibility to jobs in large cities has attracted more educated people over the past decade. In 2010, 34.4% of residents of the municipality of Genoa had a degree or higher. In 2019, 41.2% of residents had at least a bachelor’s degree.
Traffic patterns change with interchange
The increase in traffic on Latson Road has been remarkable.
In 2010, the stretch of road between Grand River Avenue and Grand Oaks Drive saw an average of about 5,770 motorists a day.
In 2019, about 21,660 motorists drove it daily. Traffic on the stretch of road reached its peak in 2017, when nearly 25,000 were driving daily.
Traffic also increased on Latson Road, south and north of the Grand River Avenue area.
In 2018, about 18,080 motorists used the road north of Golf Club Road and about 10,650 motorists used the road north of Crooked Lake Road.
Meanwhile, traffic on Chilson Road decreased.
In 2012, Chilson Road saw about 4,180 motorists a day north of where Latson Road connects. This decreased to about 2,430 in 2019.
Imagine the future: urbanization
People living and working in the area have welcomed the new businesses that are popping up along Latson Road, and are thrilled to see what comes next.
Some people, such as Faye McKimmy, a resident of Bromley and Howell, want more commercial companies to come to the municipality of Genoa.
“The only purchase we have now is Kohl’s because everything is closing,” McKimmy said. He hopes more businesses will open along Latson and stay there.
Fowlerville resident Jennifer Walls said she doesn’t want any more malls or malls near Latson. Instead, Walls would like to see more medical facilities in the municipality of Genoa, which would be closer to the western part of the county than to St. Louis. Joseph Mercy in Brighton.
“I work in labor and delivery and it would be nice if there were more delivery options in the county,” Walls said. “You can do all your prenatal things here, but you have to drive to Brighton or Ann Arbor to deliver.”
The township master plan for the Latson Road interchange corridor provides clues as to what could be next.
It does not specifically indicate what commercial or residential developments will come in the future. But it sets out the municipality’s vision on how land should be zoned, and that matters a lot to developers.
In anticipation of future development, water and sewer services are being expanded to the south.
Rogers said he expects some kind of commercial development on undevelopable land southwest of the interchange.
“I see it as a kind of potential campus. It could be a medical campus or an Amazon for all I know.
He said he does not expect large-scale developments south of Crooked Lake Road.
He also doesn’t expect to see more big stores.
“We have to be really adaptive to what works there and it will be different from what we thought it would be,” Rogers said.
Last year, the municipality approved an application from Royal Oak-based Versa Development to make a nearly 195-acre development located primarily southwest of the interchange, which could become a business park with light industrial and commercial uses.
Contact Livingston Daily journalist Jennifer Timar at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @jennifer_timar.