Input sought to help survive M-24 project

OXFORD VILLAGE – Business owners and residents concerned about the M-24 construction project in 2020 and its potentially negative impact on the downtown area are invited to participate in a special two-day event designed to create a plan aimed at keeping doors open, customers coming and cash registers ringing.

Dubbed “Surviving and Thriving During Construction,” it will take place on Monday, Aug. 13 and Tuesday, Aug. 14 in the Oxford Community room, located inside the village municipal building on W. Burdick St.

“This is your opportunity to have your specific concerns addressed,” said Glenn Pape, executive director of the Oxford Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

There will be two ways to participate.

One is the roundtable sessions happening on Aug. 13 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and again, on Aug. 14 from 7:30 to 9 a.m.

A letter sent to local business owners described these sessions as “interactive” forums where participants will “learn what other communities and businesses have done to survive and thrive during construction” and “share ideas” regarding ways downtown stakeholders “can work together to overcome challenges” created by the project.

“We’re hoping to have 10 to 12 people at (each roundtable),” Pape said.

The other avenue of participation will be the one-on-one/small group business owner consultations. There will be six 45-minute sessions over the two days.

Participants will have a chance to ask questions, discuss specific challenges and brainstorm about ways to help their businesses during construction.

“We can do one-on-one (sessions). We can do groups of people who have similar business interests. We can do general residents who have concerns,” Pape said.

Both the roundtables and business consultations will be led by Jay Schlinsog, a principal with the Franklin, Tennessee-based Downtown Professionals Network, a planning and research firm that specializes in solutions for community, downtown and business district economic development, redevelopment and revitalization.

“He’s done 40-plus of these ‘surviving construction’ plans for communities all across the Midwest,” Pape said. “He did Rochester’s when they did their downtown streetscape.”

Schlinsog’s visit is being sponsored by Main Street Oakland County.

Pape stressed how crucial it is for downtown business owners to participate in this event, so the DDA can listen to “their concerns directly” and based on that input, develop a course of action that identifies “what we can do to help” and “what they need to do.” The goal is to have “a real solid plan in place for 2020.”

“We have basic strategies that we’re going to use that we’ve seen work in other communities and we’re going to adapt them to Oxford, but we need to find out (what) their exact concerns (are) because we don’t know the details of how their businesses operate like (they do),” he said.

Folks wishing to participate must RSVP to the DDA by Friday, Aug. 10.

“They can email me. They can call me. They can fill out the form that’s going to be online. They can send me a Facebook message, if they want,” Pape said.

As of Aug. 3, Pape said he had “about a dozen (people sign up) so far.”

“I’m pretty happy with that,” he said.

The M-24 construction project will extend from Goldengate St. in Orion Township to Harriet St. in Oxford Township and encompass the villages of Lake Orion and Oxford in between.

It will span downtown Oxford from end to end. In addition to completely tearing out and reconstructing the road, downtown’s sidewalks – along with street trees and light poles – will be removed and replaced.

Construction was scheduled for 2019, but got pushed to 2020 last October.

Then in February, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) announced it wanted the project to be shovel-ready for 2019, just in case funding became available.

In April, MDOT confirmed it would “no longer consider advancing the project to the 2019 construction year” and it “will remain in the 2020 construction year as previously planned.”

But Pape isn’t willing to bet the farm on that. Even though there’s “about a 90 percent certainty” that the project will break ground in two years, Pape said “we are preparing, just in case” that changes.

“There is a chance it could be accelerated to 2019,” he said. “(It’s) a very small chance, but it does exist, so that’s why we’re doing (these roundtable and business consultation sessions) this summer as opposed to waiting to do it next summer.”

To RSVP for “Surviving and Thriving During Construction,” please call Pape at (248) 770-8587 or email him at dda@thevillageofoxford.org.

Folks can also contact Pape via the website downtownoxford.org or the Facebook page “Downtown Oxford.”

 

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