TRAVERSE CITY — Bryan Crough loved to listen to people talk about downtown Traverse City and how it has become a hot spot for the arts, dining and commerce.
“He would smile and say, ‘It’s almost like someone had a plan,’” said Steve Constantin, chairman of the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority’s board of directors.
Crough was humbly referring to himself: a man who, as longtime director of the DDA, oversaw the city’s transformation from fading downtown to a shopping district filled with vibrancy and excitement.
Crough, 59, died Sunday night of an apparent heart attack. His passing prompted both accolades and recognition of Crough’s ability to plan out the downtown’s turnaround from a shopping district that had, at one point, fallen on hard times.
“When you look at the vision he had, he saw a booming downtown when no one else saw it,” said Mayor Michael Estes. “Bryan could see where he wanted to go, and embarked on that path.”
Filmmaker Michael Moore said there would be no State Theatre without Crough. Moore paid tribute to Crough’s life with a special message on the theatre’s marquee Monday.
“Bryan Crough: When we look down this street, we will always see you,” read the marquee.
“He was essentially the steward of this building, that he knew would someday come back to life,” Moore said. “He didn’t know how or why, but he believed the State Theatre would rise again.”
Moore said he met Crough when he and other planners for the Traverse City Film Festival were still looking for a host theatre. He said he walked out of a lunch onto Front Street, saw the shuddered State Theatre and wondered aloud if anyone had a key. That person turned out to be Crough, who was initially reluctant to let people inside for insurance reasons.