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S. Old Woodward project will move forward

By Kevin Elliott

Plans to break ground next year on the southern construction phase of S. Old Woodward won’t be delayed by other projects in the area, the Birmingham City Commission confirmed.

Commissioners on Monday, October 25, approved a resolution endorsing the design concept plans for the third and final phase of the Old Woodward reconstruction project. The resolution directs staff to move forward with the preparation of detailed construction plans.

Birmingham Planning Board members in August contemplated delaying part of the project in light of the construction of a 50,000-square foot Restoration Hardware (RH) building at Brown and S. Old Woodward. Additional plans, including creating a public square at Haynes Square, are also being contemplated.

Planning board members at the time questioned whether the city commission should delay portions of the construction project to avoid performing work more than once. However, city staff recommended moving forward with the project without delay.

Birmingham Assistant City Manager Jana Ecker said recommendations in the master plan aren’t in draft form and have not been adopted. The city’s 2040 plan is still in the process of being drafted.

“If the draft 2040 Plan is adopted with the recommendations to create Haynes Square, a full study and detailed design plans would need to be prepared,” Ecker said.

Ecker said that even if approved, the Haynes Square project would require private property owners to pay for streetscape upgrades for new construction. The redesign of the entry/exit to Woodward and creation of a public park would also be subject to the Michigan Department of Transportation due to right-of-way issues. Thus, the potential project is years off, if approved in the future.

“However, traffic calming, pedestrian crossing improvements, sidewalk improvements and street improvements are needed now to improve the safety and aesthetics of South Old Woodward and to enhance one of the main entrances to downtown Birmingham,” Ecker said.

Birmingham City Manager Tom Markus said the city reached out to businesses in the project area, including RH..

“Their preference is that we do it this year,” Markus said. “From their position, once they finish the project, they don’t want it shut down with a street improvement project as soon as they are ready to open for business.”

The South Old Woodward Reconstruction Project Phase III will run from Brown to Landon Streets, matching much of the reconstruction of N. Old Woodward. The project is designed to improve pedestrian safety, calm traffic, reduce noise pollution and create a gateway into the city from S. Old Woodward.

City commissioners on Monday were largely in favor of the preliminary plans, which includes removing about 60 parking spaces along S. Old Woodward. Consultants said the spaces were proposed to be removed for safety reasons, as some create conflicts with pedestrians and vehicles.

City Commissioner Rackeline Hoff said she was concerned about the loss of parking spaces while the city is trying to increase outdoor activity.

In addition to removing parking spaces for enhanced safety, the plan calls for reducing speeds in the area by narrowing the roadway with bump-outs and tree-lined medians; diagonal parking; updated ADA parking; three additional pedestrian crossings; and improved or shortened crossings.

Commissioners approved moving forward with design plans by a vote of 6-1, with commissioner Hoff voting against it.


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