Insults tossed at Sterling Heights' 35-foot golden ring

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News
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The Golden Corridor sculpture sits in the median of the divided highway of M-59, Hall Road, in Sterling Heights.

The mayor of Sterling Heights calls it a point of pride. Others are calling it a giant Funyun.

Or an oversize Hot Wheels loop. Or worse.

Considerably worse.

But Mayor Michael Taylor predicts that his constituents will come to appreciate the 35-foot-tall, steel-and-aluminum, impossible-to-miss-and-easy-to-malign golden ring that materialized two weeks ago in the middle of an M-59/Hall Road median.

Jenn Julian, 28, of Macomb, calls Sterling Heights’ 35-foot aluminum circle “kind of pointless, honestly.” She was packing up leftover Christmas supplies at the Michaels craft store near the installation on Hall Road.

"It's drawing attention to this area. Over time, that's what's going to remain," Taylor says.

The jokes and the memes and the website celebrating the Golden (Impolite Word for Rectum) of Macomb County? They'll be long gone.

Nah. It's the Internet. Nothing is ever gone, including the meme contrasting a Golden Sphinx from Egypt to what it calls the Golden Sphincter of Sterling Heights.

Eventually, though, "it'll pay dividends and be a wise investment for us," Taylor says, demonstrating to more than 100,000 passing motorists each day that "we're not just another cookie-cutter Macomb County suburb with rows of houses and nothing interesting."

The ring is meant to suggest a portal to the Golden Corridor, a name adopted by half a dozen adjoining communities for the stretch of M-59 spreading westward from Interstate 94 to Van Dyke Road.

The corridor includes hundreds of hotels, restaurants and retailers, more than $1 billion in commercial assets, and OK, a not-so-golden defunct furniture store almost directly north of the circle.

Other nearby businesses are alive and well just east of Schoenherr Road, however, including a Michaels craft store, where Jenn Julian of Macomb Township describes the golden girdle as "kind of pointless, honestly."

"It's a waste of money," she says, "especially since there's a sign right there with the ring on it."

The sign sits half a mile east, with "Sterling Heights" in white atop a white wall with gold letters spelling out "Golden Corridor." A 6-foot replica of the ring stands to its left, with an identical sign facing eastbound traffic about 1.3 miles away.

They're part of a $339,500 investment by the city, of which $180,000 went to the ring. Which leads us to more grousing, direct from the city's Facebook page:

"Love the new parks ... hate this thing. Total waste of my tax dollars........"

"What elected officials are voting on this? We’d like to know so we can vote better next time."

"Money could have been spent on homeless people or roads, dodge park great improvement these rings stupid"

Actually, explains City Manager Mark Vanderpool, the $339,500 from the general fund was allocated specifically for the project. "You can't spend it on police cars. You can't spend it on dump trucks."

Besides, a dump truck only makes you think of trash and rubble. A 10-ton golden ring, bracketed by Fuddruckers and Art Van and Lakeside Mall, "lets you know you're in the Golden Corridor," Vanderpool says.

"Then it gets you thinking: 'Why is this the Golden Corridor? Look around me. I'm going through a special area.'"

City officials like to refer to the ring as an "icon." Technically, it's a sign or a monument, imagined by a hired sign consultant and engineered by Universal Sign Systems of Grand Rapids.

It has an aluminum skeleton, says Universal operations manager Daryl Mowry, reinforced with steel and then covered with aluminum sheeting. The exterior was sprayed with a UV-protectant paint from Sherwin-Williams that should be fade- and weather-resistant "for seven years, if not more."

The project took six months and "was more of a challenge than we expected it to be," he says, with its four sections assembled on a warehouse floor and flipped from side to side as work continued.

Multicolored lights at the foot of the Golden Corridor sign are scheduled to be installed Friday.

The bottom half, 5½ feet wide at the base, weighs about 12,000 pounds; the narrower top half weighs 8,000. The ring was trucked to Sterling Heights on four 30-foot fifth-wheel trailers, and assembled in two days by a crew using cranes and welding torches.

Multicolored lights, beaming from the foot of the sign, are scheduled to be installed Friday.

They'll presumably make the sphere's supporters even happier — and yes, despite all the references to snack foods and body openings, it has some.

Annelise Polonis moved from Southern California to Shelby Township in November, just in time for ghastly cold and a glowing golden ring.

"It grabs your eye," she says, pausing as she searches for felt at Michaels. "I love it. Let's get more up and down the corridor."

Taylor, the mayor, says he has, in fact, spoken to other communities' leaders, "but they don't have it in the budget."

Also at Michaels, Linda Weishaupt says the ring is great, and insists that "I haven't heard anything bad about it."

She's the executive director of the Eastpointe-Roseville Chamber of Commerce, a job that lends itself to half-full glassware, and she is undeterred by the price tag: "You've got to spend money to make money."

Exactly, Taylor says.

"I'm pushing forward," he declares. "I'm going to find more unique amenities we'll bring to Sterling Heights."

Murals are being painted. More are planned. Public art will abound.

The city with the giant Funyun, it seems, will be all that and a bag of chips.

Twitter: @nealrubin_dn

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