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  • By Lisa Brody

Chamber of Commerce endorses city bond vote

In the first time in memory, the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber has endorsed the August 6 ballot bond proposal in the city of Birmingham to secure financing for the replacement of the North Old Woodward parking structure and an extension of Bates Street.

The Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber is a member organization dedicated to promoting the economic development, strengthening the business climate and improving the quality of life in the communities it serves – Birmingham, Bloomfield Township, Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms, Franklin and Bloomfield Hills.

Joe Bauman, president of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber, said that historically, the chamber is an apolitical organization.

“We have never endorsed individual candidates,” Bauman said. “In the past, we have endorsed local ballot initiatives and state ballot proposals if the board of directors determines the issues will have a significant positive impact on our membership, and we believe, if passed, this will.”

In making its endorsement, the chamber board of directors noted the N. Old Woodward parking structure project will address a shortage of public parking in the northern portion of downtown and serve as the catalyst for the planned Woodward Bates project, which has the potential to transform the North Old Woodward corridor and bring a much-needed new commercial anchor in the form of a new Restoration Hardware to the downtown.

Chamber board chair Sunny Connelly, an insurance executive, said, “We respect the residents’ right to decide, but the chamber feels strongly this vote is the first step in securing a vibrant and successful downtown for years to come. Its importance can’t be overstated.”

The chamber noted that if approved by voters, the entire cost of the new parking structure and street expansion will be financed through the city’s existing parking system. The project in general, and the extension of Bates Street in particular, was first called for 20 years ago in the city’s 2016 Master Plan, which has been largely implemented since its inception.

Connelly pledged the chamber will work closely with the city of Birmingham and the Birmingham Shopping District (BSD) to find creative solutions for the loss of parking during construction as well as to partner on special events and programs to keep shoppers coming to Birmingham while the garage is being rebuilt.

“Just as we did with the reconstruction of Old Woodward last year, the chamber will be working daily to support our members and all merchants during construction of this much needed project,” Connolly said. “We realize this project will be disruptive for many businesses in the impact zone, but the entire Woodward Bates Development has the potential to be transformational for the northern corridor and bringing an outstanding company like Restoration Hardware to town will increase foot traffic and revenue for the entire central business district.”

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