BRIGHTON, MI — Nick Mannisto is a little nervous until he finds out what’s in store for his new business, Captain’s ön Main, as downtown Brighton begins a nearly year-long streetscape project.
Mannisto opened a brick-and-mortar pizzeria and coffee shop at 423 W. Main St. in September. and he soon found out about a project that will completely transform the city center.
“As a new business owner, it’s a lot harder for me to get my name across and close the road for a year,” he said. “(It will be) difficult for small town businesses. Getting over COVID and getting into this is a little rough for everyone.”
The approximately $6.5 million City of Brighton Streetscape Project, led by the city’s Downtown Development Authority, aims to modernize downtown streets, sidewalks and infrastructure while bringing many improvements to the city. The project affects Main Street, between Grand River Avenue and First Street, and Grand River Avenue, between St. Paul and North.
A water main project began Monday, Jan. 9, on Main Street from Grand River Avenue to South 2nd Street to replace century-old water mains. Alternate lane closures and detours are in effect until the works are completed at the end of March.
Streetscape improvements are scheduled to begin in April after the water main project and be completed by November at the latest, said DDA President Tim Corrigan. They include larger sidewalks that will comply with the Persons with Disabilities Act, modernized LED lighting, bicycle parking, improved landscaping, smaller roads that will keep on-street parking and more.
The city is working with Giffels Webster, a construction and community planning firm, on this redesign.
“Public safety is No. 1 to make sure we are fully ADA compliant while making our downtown a friendly, safe environment for everyone to visit, shop and enjoy,” Corrigan said. “Also, it is an effort to somehow modernize.”
The project hopes to boost the city economically by bringing businesses to the area along with new customers to existing businesses, Corrigan said.
Local businesses make an impact
Toni Reese, owner of Running Lab, said she thought her business, which sells running equipment and was in the center of Brighton, would be fine during the construction because it is more of a “destination”.
However, Reese said she sees how the next few months could be a problem for other businesses that rely on foot traffic.
“It’s not easy to get to the center of Brighton, and dealing with detours and parking restrictions could be a challenge for other people,” she said. “As far as we (at Running Lab) are concerned, it’s a waiting game right now.”
Anyone who talks to local businesses is likely to hear “a strong mix” of concern and optimism about the project, Reese said.
“I think a lot of it has to do with where you are, along with the construction timeline and whether you have a back entrance,” she said.
How customers will access businesses when sidewalk construction begins is a big concern among business owners, Reese said. City staff will work with contractors to ensure access to all businesses, Corrigan said.
Another impact of the project will be the annual events held in the city center. Corrigan said “it is up to the event promoter to be able to hold their event based on other locations in the city (and) the city is still working with event applicants on this topic.”
The City of Brighton has had an “open line of communication” with businesses regarding the project, including holding various meetings.
“I’m looking forward (to) beautifying downtown (and) being able to make it more accessible for all people,” Reese said. “The city center is quite outdated with its sidewalks, crosswalks and other things. That safety and convenience in our downtown would be great and should bring foot traffic back.”
Mannisto and Reese agree that in order to overcome the closure required for the downtown Brighton project, businesses need to come together to support each other, whether that includes advertising, promotions or even offering to sell merchandise on behalf of other stores.
“I think (this project) will definitely bring us together more because we have to communicate more,” Reese said. “I think we’re going to connect more (and) we’re going to see a lot more cross-promotion.”
Background to Brighton’s Streetscape project and what’s next
The streetscape project has been in the works since 2018 when the city of Brighton began looking at what needed to be done, Corrigan said, adding that the last time this part of downtown was improved was about 25 years ago.
The project was developed and approved by the DDA and approved by Brighton City Council. The final project plans were approved in September.
Information about other street closures and construction during the project will be posted on the city’s website. To stay up-to-date on the project, visit the City of Brighton website or the Giffels Webster website.
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