OKEMOS — Businesses have faced a pandemic, labor shortages, supply shortages, inflation, and now some Meridian Township businesses have one more potential obstacle with a large Grand River Avenue construction project underway.
This month the Michigan Department of Transportation started construction for a $14.7 million project that will do resurfacing and drainage improvements on Grand River Avenue, also known as M-43, in the heart of the township.
Some business owners are already noticing the impact, including Lotus Beauty Lounge owner MelissaLynn Terry, who had to find a new route to her full-service salon in Meridian Mall due to the construction.
“So we’re trying to you know, think ahead of the curve,” she said. “Let our clients know in advance like, ‘hey, we don’t want you to be late for your appointment, so why don’t you take this route,’ and we’re just going with the flow.”
Project construction work includes joint and crack repairs, intermittent curb and gutter replacement, spot drainage repairs and sidewalk ramp upgrades. Once completed this project will reduce the frequency and impact of area flooding, according to MDOT’s website.
People who drive in the area should anticipate this project to last about 18 months, weather permitting, with milling and repaving of Grand River Avenue from Oak Pointe Court to Nakoma Drive, Meridian Township Neighborhoods and Economic Development Director Amber Clark said in an email.
Grand River Avenue traffic will be slowed and all access driveways will remain open for visitors to enter and exit business drives.
“We encourage people to utilize the detours as provided and give themselves a bit more drive time to get to their destinations,” Clark said.
As a partner to the local business community, Meridian Township will launch an 18-month “shop local” initiative with signage along Grand River Avenue to remind the public that businesses will be open and need their patronage, she said.
“What we can do as patrons will help our businesses to remain open and financially viable,” she said. “The economy is a revolving relationship of commerce. It is our hope that Meridian can show by example through the construction we are present, supportive, and remain a prime community.”
Terry said she thinks all the area businesses will potentially be impacted by construction, including businesses in the mall, as some people may not want to deal with the construction and find something closer to them.
However, she does feel lucky she’s in the mall, which brings foot traffic. Even if someone’s not going to the mall specifically for her business, they’ll still see Lotus Beauty Lounge.
She opened the salon in 2018 and and feels like she’s thriving after COVID-19 shut down salons for months. It’s not the same, but the salon is trying to adjust to the new challenges it faces in this “new normal” and adapt to the environment.
That includes the “very large” construction project near the mall, she said.
Terry thinks the construction is needed and will benefit the area in the long run. It will improve the walkways for joggers and people walking their dogs and she thinks it will help people feel safer with area flooding.
It’s a headache trying to figure out a new route when roads are flooding and it can get really bad for drivers. She’s driven through a puddle “that really should have been part of the river” and doesn’t want to ever have to do it again.
“So I do think that it’s necessary,” she said. “I am hoping that they at least get it finished at their deadline. If they get it done sooner, I would be super grateful for that.”
Destinee Inhmathong, a manager at Koi Tea at 2160 W. Grand River Ave., also thinks construction could impact the business.
“I know people don’t like driving through construction,” she said.
She has noticed the construction cones in front of the bubble tea shop that go all the way down the road. Business already has been slow due to the season and Inhmathong thinks construction could make it harder for people to come, she said.
On the other hand, Catrine Medawar, who co-owns Medawar Jewelers at 2168 W. Grand River Ave. with her family, said the business hasn’t felt any change in traffic and she doesn’t think construction will significantly impact the business.
She doesn’t know what construction will do to the area, but her business is a destination spot for people. The business has faced challenges before and the community has shown time and time again that they are there to support the business, she said.
“People are going to make it here regardless when they need to come see us,” Medawar said.