From the Detroit Free Press:
Downtown business owners and commuters are in for a four-month adjustment to their routines once construction begins late next month on M-1 Rail, the 3.3-mile streetcar line that will stretch from downtown to New Center.
M-1 officials announced that construction will begin on July 28, 2014 and will require the closure of Woodward between Adams Street and Campus Martius for about 120 days. Crews will be reconstructing the roadway and laying rail for the streetcar line.
It will mean detours for commuters who take Woodward north, but will also likely mean less foot traffic along that segment of Woodward, where pop-up shops, party stores, retailers, apartments, lofts, restaurants and bars have gone up in renovated buildings in anticipation of downtown’s rebirth between Campus Martius and Midtown.
Several downtown business operators were keeping the long view in mind Friday, saying that while they know the shutdown will hurt for a bit, what’s more important is the specter of a revived downtown served by streetcars that attract more visitors and business redevelopment.
Stan Nelson, owner of Red Rose Florist at 1425 Woodward, said it’s been a struggle to make a go of it since he opened his shop downtown a decade ago in a storefront on Washington Boulevard. He moved to Woodward five years ago and said he’s looking forward to a wave of growth once the streetcars are running.
“The M-1 Rail can only help,” he said Friday afternoon at the flower shop. “This is an exciting time. But it’s been a struggle. It’s just good to see that things are steadily growing, and we’re glad we had the vision to be a part of it.”
He said the store already does marketing through churches and other organizations to let potential customers know about services there because foot traffic on Woodward isn’t sufficient now to keep the store going. The shop has also focused more on online sales.
Cross streets such as Grand River and Clifford will remain open as much as possible, expect when crews have to build roadway or lay tracks and the like, M-1 organizers said. Sidewalks along Woodward will remain open throughout.
M-1 organizers said detours will follow parallel downtown streets such as Washington Boulevard to the west and John R to the east. Many city and suburban bus detours around the project also will follow Washington, putting the routes a bit closer to the Rosa Parks Transit Center, the downtown bus hub. DDOT already has changed its routes by removing bus stops that once were on Woodward between Adams and Campus Martius.
The $140-million rail line is scheduled to be up and running by late 2016, with 16 curbside stops and four in medians on the route between Congress and West Grand Boulevard in the area anchored by the old General Motors headquarters and the Fisher Building. It’s being funded largely with corporate and philanthropic donations, although the federal government has granted some money to the project.
The work will be the most visible sign of progress yet for a project that backers say will help lay the groundwork for future investment in mass transit in metro Detroit and spur redevelopment along Woodward. The project has been hampered by scheduling delays and, most recently, a $12 million funding shortfall that M-1 says it will not let delay construction.
“Over the next thirty days our team will be pounding the pavement to make everyone who lives, works and visits the Woodward corridor aware of what they should expect from track construction and how to navigate around it once we begin on July 28,” Paul Childs, M-1 Rail’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “We are moving quickly to provide information and resources to businesses and residents along the corridor. There will be a business support program that we will introduce in the coming weeks along with more details about construction activities and timelines as they are finalized.”
That will include two upcoming public meetings with businesses and others impacted by the construction: July 1 for Midtown companies at the Max M. Fisher Music Theater, 3711 Woodward, 8–9:30 a.m; and for the Central Business District at The Madison, 1555 Broadway , 6–8 p.m. July 2.
At D:Hive, a Woodward storefront that offers a downtown welcome center, resources for visitors and assistance to those looking to start businesses in the city, Jeanette Pierce said she’s hoping that the shutdown will have a side effect of getting people to take note of other parts of downtown they may not see if they stick to Woodward most of the time.
“Sure, it’s going to be inconvenient, but I think that the staff at M-1 has done a great job of reaching out,” said Pierce, D:Hive’s director of community relations, crediting M-1 with working for more than a year to prepare businesses along and near Woodward for the construction project.
Pierce said many businesses along that segment of Woodward are focusing on the long-term positive effect of expanded mass transit making it easier to get around two areas of the city rebounding after decades of disinvestment.
“With any construction project, whether it’s road repair or something like this, it is slightly annoying, but it’s exciting,” she said. “At D:Hive, we’re going to be working on encouraging people to explore the detour and visit businesses. … I think this might actually give people an opportunity to get out of their car and walk a little bit, and when you walk you notice a lot more stuff, and actually fall more in love with the city.”
More information on M-1 and its construction schedule is available at 800-511-3931, M-1 Rail’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and at M-1 Rail’s office at 1426 Woodward, Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.