The city's role during future road work
Aging infrastructure is the bane of most Michigan municipalities, suffering with broken water mains, corroded sewers, and crumbling, inefficient roads. The city of Birmingham is one government body which has had the foresight to think ahead and plan for the replacement of its infrastructure, developing engineering and multi-modal plans to completely reconstruct city streets, both for its major roads and within its neighborhoods. But suffering through road reconstruction is another thing altogether. Upcoming during the road construction seasons of 2017 and 2018, first Old Woodward, from Willits to Brown streets in 2017, and then Maple Road, from Bates to Woodward in 2018, each right through the center of downtown Birmingham, meaning retailers, restaurants, businesses – and those who visit them – will be directly impacted for several months. The Birmingham Shopping District (BSD) board has been planning for these road reconstruction projects for the last few years, setting aside nearly $444,000 from their fund balance to provide additional support to businesses and property owners. The BSD is supported by assessments on downtown Birmingham business property owners, and provides marketing and event planning for the retailers, restaurants, and downtown businesses. John Heiney, executive director of the BSD, said they have increased their fund balance without raising rates. In addition to continuing to promote their events and activities, Heiney said the executive board had determined it was imperative to provide merchants with additional advertising support during the construction periods, as well as offer valet parking six days a week in strategic locations; enhance colorful temporary store signage in construction zones; add a long-term installation of enhanced light poles at Maple and Old Woodward to handle banners and major light displays. In addition, they are also discussing adding modern up-to-date information kiosks with interactive directory touchscreens and enhanced directional signs for shoppers. The goal is to keep stores and restaurants open and make sure visitors can easily access them. We applaud the efforts of Heiney and his board. But we believe the city of Birmingham is just as dependent upon the central business district's success as the BSD, and should contribute funds to make sure retailers, restaurants and other businesses are better able to survive during what could be a cataclysmic interruption to their businesses. The city of Birmingham is receiving federal funds to pay for some of the road construction work; upcoming budgeting will determine how else the road work will be paid for. There is still much to be figured out and designed, with infrastructure needs and multi-modal decisions still to be determined. But with the BSD contributing almost a half-million dollars to make sure the city's businesses survive, we believe a fiscally-sound and successful city like Birmingham will want to ensure their survival as well. Everyone in and around Birmingham depends upon it.