Downtown Birmingham reconstruction begins this month

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published February 26, 2018

 Roads, sidewalks, water and sewer lines, and the streetscape along Old Woodward Avenue are set to be reconstructed this spring.

Roads, sidewalks, water and sewer lines, and the streetscape along Old Woodward Avenue are set to be reconstructed this spring.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

BIRMINGHAM — Last year, downtown got a bit of a reprieve from the orange barrels when city officials opted to delay planned construction of Old Woodward Avenue between Oakland Avenue and Brown Street.

This year, it’s happening.

Early in January, the Birmingham City Commission unanimously approved a resolution to award a contract for the project to Angelo Iafrate Construction Co., of Warren, for just over $7 million. The bulk of that money will come from the city’s sewer fund, major streets fund and general fund.

The project was originally slated to commence last summer, but the City Commission voted in April 2017 to delay the work after the bids the city received came in “significantly higher” than expected. The bid this year from Iafrate is about $180,000 lower than what was budgeted.

“Yes, it’s finally here,” said City Manager Joe Valentine. “The project is on track to start (at) the end of March. We’ll begin with some work in preparation of the construction project to help eliminate the number of contractors on-site during the construction work.”

That means March, if the weather cooperates, will consist of preliminary sewer scoping, assessments of foundations at adjoining buildings and the removal of about 35 street trees, which will be replaced when the work is complete.

“Our plan for the new trees calls for structural soil and larger tree wells that will help the new trees grow faster and be healthier in the long run,” Valentine said in an email. “The new trees will have a 4-inch caliper, larger than what we normally plant as far as our new trees go, providing for a full streetscape.”

He added that the trees will be aided by a new state-of-the-art irrigation system that’s planned as part of the construction project, and some of the trees to be removed are slated to be relocated to a Birmingham park.

The contract calls for 125 days of work, with a target substantial completion date of July 27. The agreement includes “significant financial incentives” to Iafrate for early completion — and penalties for delays. The schedule will be a six-day workweek, with extended hours encouraged.

But with such an intense plan in place, many might be concerned about limited access to downtown.

Valentine said not to worry.

“Downtown will not be closed. The public will be able to get to their favorite locations,” he said in a prepared statement.

Birmingham Shopping District Executive Director Ingrid Tighe said her organization already has several perks planned for the spring to make shopping and dining easier on downtown visitors, including free valet parking, contests and prizes, public art, special events and more.

“First, we’ll communicate construction updates on social media, in email alerts, on the city website and at merchant meetings,” she said in an email. “The BSD will also be hosting several events to include a public art project asking local artists and community organizers to decorate the construction barriers. Additionally, we’ll be using incentive programs like ‘Birmingham Bonus Bucks’ to reward customers for their purchases downtown.”

The construction is another piece of the city’s plan to improve aging infrastructure downtown. In 2013, Pierce Street, from Maple Road to Merrill Street; and Merrill, from Pierce to Old Woodward, were repaired. In 2016, Hamilton Avenue was reconstructed from Old Woodward to Woodward Avenue. The projects included new water lines, sewer lines and streetscape improvements.

Part of the streetscape improvements have, to date, included modifications to make sidewalks and curbs compliant with updates to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

For more information and the latest updates on the reconstruction of Old Woodward, visit the project page at There, you can also sign up for weekly email updates.