Birmingham is preparing for the reconstruction of South Old Woodward
As the start date nears for a roughly $10 million reconstruction of South Old Woodward Avenue, some business leaders are publicly voicing their concerns.
They fear the loss of 60 parking spaces, a bus stop relocation and repercussions that include fewer customers and their living dollars.
Blendi Suvaria, representing the Birmingham Pub, pleaded with City Commissioners at a recent meeting.
“I really ask you to reconsider the loss of so many (parking spaces),” he said. “I never received a notice, a letter, an e-mail. I only had one (two months ago). I went to the restaurant every day.
The downtown restaurant, he said, was “very successful” due to the parking spaces lined outside. But his pub fans will have to park further afield, possibly as early as May when reconstruction work at Woodward is due to begin.
City leaders insisted that current state and federal safety guidelines require the changes. They also say they have been alerting residents to the reconstruction project for some time.
“It’s not a rushed decision at all. It’s not a mistake,” said Pro-Tem Mayor Pierre Boutros, stressing that he was reviewing the reconstruction project from its initial phase. They’ll get used to it. They’re healthy. They’re looking for well-being. I hope they like to walk.
“We do this to help businesses, not hurt them. I hope people can understand.”
The meeting did not calm some businessmen associated with the luxury apartment and corporate building at 555 S. Old Woodward Ave. They continued to share letters they sent to Commissioners protesting the change in parking lot and moving the bus stop from its current location on Bowers Street, under the building’s elevated car park, to a location in S Old Woodward Avenue north of Bowers that city officials say is safer.
Building 555 management officer Jack Reinhart said he will lose about 40% of the lifestyle center’s street parking. He is still very upset about the bus stop moving.
“The bus stop is a safety issue, and it’s a traffic issue,” he said. “This switch at the bus stop really puts people and pedestrians in Birmingham at a much higher risk than they do. You don’t have to be a traffic expert. It’s just plain old common sense.
For nearly a decade, Birmingham has dealt with the aging infrastructure of the city center business district while rebuilding the roads. Maple Road was rebuilt in 2020after the pandemic hit.
The South Old Woodward Phase 3 reconstruction project promises new underground infrastructure and streetscape between Brown and Landon streets. Mid-block crosswalks, granite benches, new street lighting and better accessible street parking will be some of the other features.
Birmingham Ultimate Fitness owner Dustin Wenzel still wishes city leaders had considered pushing the project back due to the struggles of recent years.
“I’m still recovering from COVID,” he said. “We haven’t even reached our capacity yet. I don’t think companies were given enough consideration when they really went through this and made these decisions.
“The timing is really bad. I’m just starting to regain comfort levels and now it’s going to happen. I’m afraid this will drop me below numbers that make it difficult to be able to pay rent.
Marianne Gamboa, spokesperson for the city, noted that “the city has completed several other projects over the past year” and “due to anticipated increases in construction costs and the age of underground infrastructure, it is important to move forward with this project as scheduled.”
Residents and businesses can sign up for the South Old Woodward Rebuild Phase 3 Constant Contact Group at bit.ly/bhamnews to receive project updates. They can also find out more about the project at www.bhamgov.org/oldwoodwardphase3.