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Survey says...? Downtown business owners share thoughts on Streetscape project

June 02, 2010 - By Leah Yanuszeski, Review Intern

Just under fifty restaurants, boutiques, specialty shops, offices, and other businesses are located on Flint Street from M-24 to Orion Road or on Broadway from M-24 to Shadbolt, in downtown Lake Orion.

Jay Rogers, who owns Clo-Bear K9 Specialty Shop with wife, Brenda, removes the last of the store’s contents and prepares to close up. Photo by Laura Colvin (click for larger version)
All will be affected by the downtown 'streetscape'—the name bestowed upon renovations planned for this summer.

What do business owners they think? Are they worried?

Brenda Rogers, owner of Clo-Bear K9 Specialty Shop, said she expects the project to "crush" her business.

As a result, she's closing up shop, although she hopes, at some point, to share space with another downtown business.

On Monday, she and husband Jay were cleaning out the storefront on Broadway.

"I don't want to get in a hole that I can't get out of," Rogers said.

Bob Mason, co-owner of W.R. Mason Jewelers, told the Review in January, "I think it's going to really hurt business. It's going to divert people away from downtown. It might be totally necessary, but at the same time, we can't operate without customers."

While they wait for construction to begin, some businesses are taking a 'wait-and-see,' attitude, 'hope for the best,' or just simply bracing for it.

Lloyd Coe, owner of Ed's Broadway Gift and Costume, discussed the loss of foot-traffic and impulse sales.

"Many retailers are destination points, and will lose out on the pickup sales," said Coe, referring to people avoiding construction.

Many business owners also expressed concern over when the project would actually get underway, where parking will be, and other aspects.

"I listened at the last meeting," said one business owner, who asked not to be named. "But I got very little out of it. Financially, I didn't get an understanding."

Lake Orion Village Manager Paul Zelenak told the Review in March that construction could last anywhere from 90 to 120 days.

As for financing, funding was finalized Feb. 22. A loan for $1.2 million from the village's water and sewer fund was approved by the village council and will add to the $575,000 in grant money and money that the Downtown Development Authority has been saving for several years.

A majority of the budget will be dedicated to repaving the streets and storm sewer repair.

The streetscape project also entails work in the Children's park (two thirds of it to be paid for by three grants), and improving aesthetics like landscaping.

When asked about their sentiments on the Jubilee forced to move due to the downtown construction, six business owners said they were okay with it, two said that it will hurt business, and one didn't answer.

Last year, the Jubilee was held downtown, the weekend before the Fourth of July.

This year, it will be held at Canterbury Castle in Orion Township.

One business stated "Good, [the Jubilee] can stay there."

However Coe said many retailers will lose extra profit from more people visiting downtown.

Almost all surveyed business owners agreed: The project's end result will look nice, and that street aesthetics will be improved.

However, considering the economy and timing of the project, some expressed concern.

"I don't think it's the time to do a large streetscape. I disagree, I don't think the timing is right," said Shellie Anger, owner of Limelight Salon.

Dan Burgess of Builders Custom Flooring expressed a different opinion. He agreed with the project, stating that the streets and sidewalks need repair.

All business owners hoped that customers will brave the summer construction and frequent downtown shops, in effort to keep businesses alive during the streetscape.

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