Business is still booming — so far

As construction gets under way at Pierce and Merrill, Birmingham looks to promote businesses blocked by the barrels

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 27, 2013

 The improvement project in front of City Hall at Pierce and Merrill is expected to be wrapped up by June.

The improvement project in front of City Hall at Pierce and Merrill is expected to be wrapped up by June.

BIRMINGHAM — Some would say that Michigan has only two seasons: snow and orange barrels.

In downtown Birmingham, one season has already begun to transition into the other as the city breaks ground on its plan to improve the street and sidewalks at Pierce and Merrill near City Hall. The project, which was approved early last year, will update and repair the street, adjacent sidewalks, underlying septic systems and street lights in hopes of avoiding more severe restoration projects down the road.

“The existing pavements on Pierce Street and Merrill Street are 60 to 80 years old and are in big need of repairs. The water and sewer systems are that old, as well. In order to address all issues in a holistic manner, we have developed a plan to quickly take care of all three areas, so no further work is needed for many years to come,” said City Engineer Paul O’Meara in an email.

While the project was still in the planning stages last year, nearby business owners complained about the road closure, saying their sales could be hurt by the estimated three-month disruption. In an effort to lessen the blow of the possible drop in traffic through the area, the city has created a page on its website to both explain the project’s elements and also provide a resource for businesses and consumers.

“We want to get the word out that businesses are open and accessible,” said Marianne Gamboa, public relations specialist for the city of Birmingham.

FDM Contracting broke ground on the construction last Monday, and according to some businesses, the work is an eyesore but has yet to affect sales.

“This is typically not the busiest time for us,” said Scott Beard, makeup artist at Todd’s Room on Pierce Street. Todd’s Room offers cosmetic products and services to its customers and is known by many for its expert makeup application and eyebrow waxing.

“It’s not that big of a deal. Our clients are so loyal. As far as our business goes, our eyebrow services are our base, and they’ll come hell or high water,” said Beard.

Just down the street, Townhouse Bistro is still going strong with plenty of customers coming in for the restaurant’s signature burgers and other menu items, according to general manager Martin Bell. The real test, however, will be when temperatures rise and the bistro gets ready to open up its popular patio seating.

“I don’t think it’s been as detrimental to us as we had anticipated,” Bell said, adding that he thinks it’s worse for the businesses that have barricades on their side of the street. “But I suppose we’ll get a true sense when the patio is open with the noise and the debris of the construction.”

According to the city’s website, the project is slated to be complete by June 1. There is also a link on the project’s page for the Pierce and Merrill Improvement Constant Contact Group. Businesses can submit an email address to receive construction updates and other pertinent information.

To learn more about the Pierce and Merrill Improvement project, visit