Be more mindful when planning city projects
As we go to press for this issue, two days before Christmas 2020 and a week before New Year's Eve, we reflect back upon what has been a very difficult year for our community's retailers and restaurants. First, the COVID-19 pandemic created physical and economic havoc and turmoil, impacting the health of friends and neighbors, literally closing down all businesses for the months of March, April and May, and more recently, for our restaurants, which are continuing to endure indoor dining closures due to state orders. On top of that, road construction projects throughout Birmingham, Bloomfield Township and Bloomfield Hills, notably the Maple Road reconstruction project, made access to downtown Birmingham stores and establishments a maze of a challenge.
We applaud the tenacity of those businesses who continue to persevere and have figured out novel ways to conduct business, from providing curbside pickups to new online services, whether a restaurant which is delivering dinners to a fitness facility offering virtual classes. Some retailers are offering to bringing merchandise to homes or offices; others are willing to make accommodations at personally designated hours. Their flexibility to change in the face of this once-in-a-lifetime (we all hope) challenge is admirable and we encourage customers to support our local restaurants and merchants as they continue in their fight for their lives.
Which is why we have to question planning choices – or lack thereof – made by the city of Birmingham, after Maple Road was finally opened to close it down for a week to all through traffic during the week around Thanksgiving, as shopping was ramping up for the busy holiday season, in order to add granite benches. Another morning in mid-December, all of the parking meters along Maple were bagged in order to complete paint striping. That's right – finishing touches which could have easily have waited until spring instead of during Hanukkah and the busy Christmas shopping period.
We give city staff and city commissioners kudos for extending the free parking at all five of the city's parking structures through the end of March 2021, which is both an enticement for shoppers and diners to visit and use the structures, and very appreciated by businesses who continue to support the city but are impacted by the pandemic, and whose workers are still primarily working remotely.
We also give props to the Birmingham Shopping District and outgoing Executive Director Ingrid Tighe for the '12 Days of Takeout' promotion, where patrons who visited the city's restaurants earned Birmingham Bucks in return.
But moving forward during the dark months to come this winter before hopefully a brighter spring and summer with a vaccinated population, it's imperative that while city government continues to improve infrastructure and make other improvements they never forget how important businesses – restaurants, merchants, offices – are to the fabric of the community. And schedule work accordingly.