Groundbreaking signals start of West Nine Mile project

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published May 8, 2013

 Cristina Sheppard-Decius, Ferndale Downtown Development Authority executive director, speaks to city officials and the public May 1 during a DDA event to signal the beginning of construction on West Nine Mile Road.

Cristina Sheppard-Decius, Ferndale Downtown Development Authority executive director, speaks to city officials and the public May 1 during a DDA event to signal the beginning of construction on West Nine Mile Road.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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FERNDALE — With years of planning in the books, the three-prong infrastructure project on West Nine Mile Road in Ferndale is finally under way, with the Downtown Development Authority’s ceremonial groundbreaking May 1.

Mayor Dave Coulter, City Council members and other elected officials gathered at the intersection of Livernois Street and Nine Mile to signify the beginning of the project that will see the water main replaced, the road resurfaced and streetscaping taking place. The construction is set to begin later this month and last about eight months.

“This is an exciting and monumentous occasion and, with the community support, we will see a new phase to West Nine Mile,” DDA Executive Director Cristina Sheppard-Decius said. “This has been a community-driven approach with the design, and this will definitely be an economic driver that will help businesses on the western end of the district. This will help revitalize that section of our downtown.”

The water main replacement will be the first phase of the construction. It will take about eight weeks and take place from Planavon Street to Pinecrest Drive. The Department of Public Works will install a new 12-inch water main to help water pressure and dripping issues in the area.

“Workers will dig, replace and refill every day during the water main project, so there will be no gaping holes in the streets,” said Chris Hughes, DDA communications and marketing manager. “All businesses will have access open, and there may be a few times throughout the project that businesses have an interruption in water, but it will be much better for everybody overall in the end.”

After the water main replacement, the pavement from Livernois to Pinecrest will be resurfaced and the streetscaping will begin. Streetlights will be removed during the process, so businesses on that end of West Nine Mile were given lights to hang on their stores during that time.

The streetscaping will also include wider sidewalks, park benches, trash cans, trees and flowers. The road itself will become three lanes with on-street parking on the south side, a shared lane for cars and bikes and an extra street crossing.

The DDA called the May 1 event “How the West was One” because the purpose of the project is to make West Nine Mile one downtown area, Hughes said.

“We have a certain look and feel down here already that we are going to try and duplicate down on the other end,” she said. “If you go down there right now, take a walk, you will definitely feel endangered, but it is also a forgotten part of downtown because of that. This project will change the whole personality of what is happening down there and make all the businesses down there, and those not filled, way more attractive.”

The water main project was already on the city books for this year, and the DDA and city officials decided to do the resurfacing and streetscaping at the same time. The project will cost $1,896,236, with a big portion of the funding coming from Michigan Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration grants.

“This was a long-standing project and we were just waiting for the funding to become available,” Loyd Cureton, DPW director and the West Nine Mile project manager, said. “A portion of the street project was paid for by grants and through the city road funds, while the water main was paid for by the city’s water fund. It was a lot of work, and the DDA helped identify what we needed to do and how to help fund it.”

Hughes said public investment into the downtown area would spark interest in private investment from local businesses. The construction project will also help increase the value of neighboring houses.

Initial plans for the project began in 1998 under a different mayor and different city officials, and Coulter said the long wait would be worth it for the whole city.

“We are continuing development that we started in 1998, and we are standing on the shoulders of city leaders who had a vision to take the first steps,” Coulter said. “We will see shops, bars and stores that we already see on the other end, and it will bring people down to this part of Nine Mile.”

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