Source: Sherman Publications

Businesses optimistic with Streetscape

by Gabriel L. Ouzounian

March 23, 2011

Work on downtown’s Streetscape has officially broken ground -- in the form of a large crater at the corner of Flint and N. Lapeer streets.

The construction has closed off its first road, and some Lake Orion businesses were concerned this would mark a point in the project where business would be injured.

Yet against the predictions of many business owners in the area, the closed road, loud noises, and eyesore brought on by the construction has done little to hinder sales.

“I was concerned my business would be effected, and April and May are my busiest months because of all the first communions,” with the bit of an Irish brogue, Celtic Cove’s owner Bridget Kelly said, “I was closed for the first day of the construction, but I’m happy to see, now, that my customers have come in despite it.

“I’m happy they started the project here, so as they move down the street it will be less of a hindrance.”

Kelly’s business is on Flint Street. She believes the Streetscape will do much improve the looks of downtown -- beautifying the area and repaving the roads which she said were “rather rough.”

Leila Freijy, one of the owners of Little Monsters Toy Store, feels the same way, and had little negativity about the downtown construction.

“Overall it will cause some pain, but no pain no gain -- we’re going to end up with a really nice down town,” Freijy said. “It’s a little early to tell how much it’s going to effect business, but I’ve seen the pictures, and I think it’s going to be great for the downtown.”

Matt Heasley, new Owner of Poppyseed Deli & Fountain hopes the community will help each other get through the construction. He too was initially concerned about lack of customers on Monday, March 21, but come lunchtime, his usually rush showed up.

“I know the construction will be everywhere, but as long as they do it in steps, I don’t think it will be anything we can’t handle,” said Heasley. “We have to embrace it, because it’s happening either way, and depending on if we do or not will make this either a short or long couple of months.

“I just worry about the smaller niche businesses that depend more on foot traffic, and I think business owners down here really should try to help these guys.”

Despite the overall positivity of businesses near the ground-breaking, there were a few concerns left unanswered. The number one issue was where to park, which some owners said they still didn’t know about.

Heasley asked about angled parking near the construction zones. Kelly echoed this sentiment, and said she “doesn’t like when people call and say, ‘I wanted to stop by but there was no place to park.’”

“Unfortunately, the angled parking won’t work out because of space and safety concerns from myself and Lake Orion Police,” said Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority Director Suzanne Perreault. “With the rapidly changing schedule of the construction, it would be difficult to change the parking spaces on a day to day basis.

“We’re trying to let people know about parking areas that are under-utilized in the downtown area with signs that should be out this week.”

The areas Perreault mentioned tend to be further from the intersection at Broadway and Flint streets, but remain under-utilized. The parking lot near Children’s Park has around 70 spots, a public parking lot off Broadway, just north of Shadbolt, is available, and a lot near Lake Orion Veterinary Center has 24, mostly unused, spots.

She also mentioned fixing parking problem in Lake Orion is one of the primary goals of the DDA, and that better signage and information guiding people to these underutilized lots should be in place in the next one to three years.

Perreault said she and the DDA are doing “everything in their power” to notify businesses of upcoming obstructions and tips on how to continue business as normal to make the construction times flow as smoothly as possible.

Police Chief Jerry Narsh also is keeping businesses notified with weekly updates. As of press-time, The Lake Orion Review, a downtown businesses has received six construction updates.

The $2 million Streetscape project is planned to be wrapped up by July 1 (of this year!).