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Posted on Thu, May 9, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Downtown Ann Arbor business owners brace for Fourth Avenue closure during construction

By Amy Biolchini


Two blocks of Fourth Avenue between Huron Street and Liberty Street will be closed for two months beginning May 14 for reconstruction and water main work — including this intersection of Fourth Avenue and Washington Street.

Melanie Maxwell |

Businesses on two blocks of South Fourth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor are bracing for two months of construction that will completely close the road beginning May 14.

Ann Arbor City Council approved the $741,900 bid for construction at its meeting Monday and the project has been moving on an expedited schedule since then.

The pavement on South Fourth Avenue is in bad repair and needs to be redone, city officials say. The project will reconstruct the street, replace a water main and install a new stormwater collection system.

“I think every cyclist and driver would like to see this done,” said Mayor John Hieftje.

The goal is for construction to be complete before the Ann Arbor Art Fairs start July 17, said project manager Igor Kotlyar.


A pedestrian crosses Washington Street at South Fourth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor Wednesday. The intersection and two blocks of Fourth Avenue between Huron Street and Liberty Street will be closed for two months beginning May 14 for reconstruction and water main work.

Melanie Maxwell |

“There is no time to waste,” Kotlyar said.

May 14, the city will close the two-block portion of Fourth Avenue from Huron Street to Liberty Street for the duration of the project. Sidewalk access will be maintained to area businesses.

Fourth Avenue between Washington and Liberty has seen two new businesses open this spring — the bookstore Literati and the gift shop Shine — adding to the boutique shopping offerings on the street.

Shine opened in March at 211 S. Fourth Ave. Manager Kelly Hadin said she’s concerned the construction will interfere with customers discovering the business.

In time, Hadin said Shine’s boutique gift shop offerings will become a destination shop for customers — but in the first several months she’s counting on customers stumbling upon the business.

“Now being so brand new we do count on people finding us first,” Hadin said.

Ken Sing, owner of Mexican restaurant Bandito’s at 216 S. Fourth Ave., said the street looks fine to him and that he’s not looking forward to the project. The restaurant has been there since 1991.

“Fourth Avenue is Ann Arbor’s adopted child,” Sing said, calling it a forgotten corridor that rarely sees investment.

Concerned about the effect construction dust will have on outdoor seating for his customers, Sing said he’ll try to keep his patio tables open for as long as he can.

“It isn’t convenient — any construction is noise and dust,” Kotlyar said. “All we can do is try to minimize and make sure it goes as fast as soon as possible, so people can get their street in much better condition.”

Jamie Agnew, co-owner of mystery bookstore Aunt Agatha's at 213 S. Fourth Ave., said he’s glad the sidewalk will remain open for the project — as closing it would be the “kiss of death” for businesses on the street.

Most of store’s customers seek out the shop as a destination — but many of them are older, Agnew said. Customers will not be able to park on the street for the duration of the road closure.

“In no way is it a good thing, but I’m trying to keep a good face on for it,” Agnew said.

Sam Farha, manager of Sottini’s Sub Shop at 205 S. Fourth Ave., said he’s also concerned about dust issues from the project, but is looking forward to the possible business that could come from the construction workers at lunchtime.

Residents in apartments on Fourth Avenue who park in alleyways inaccessible during construction will be provided a parking spot courtesy of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, city officials said.

City engineers planned to meet with Fourth Avenue business owners May 8 in a special meeting to explain the project’s schedule.

“The project schedule won’t be extremely tight, but will require the contractor to be well-organized,” Kotlyar said. “As long as they proceed to get the work moving at a good construction speed, they should be able to get everything done and open for the art fair.”

The Ann Arbor City Council moved the project forward on its agenda Monday to approve the award of the bid before going into recess. By Tuesday, crews were already marking utility lines on Fourth Avenue to move the project forward.

“This is a project many of us have been waiting for, for a long time,” said Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward. “People are really eager to see this improvement.”

City Council voted unanimously to award a $741,900 contract to E.T. MacKenzie Co. of Grand Ledge. The company was the lowest of four bidders and came in under the engineer’s project estimate of $746,540.

Construction will replace curbs and gutters on the street, as well as curb ramps and some portions of sidewalk.

A water main on Fourth Avenue in the block between East Huron Street and East Washington Street is also in poor condition and too small. The 4-inch main will be replaced with a 320-foot-long 12-inch iron water main.

A new system to collect the stormwater will be installed under Fourth Avenue.

Rainwater that runs off the street will be collected in a stone reservoir under the street and then allowed to percolate back into the ground, rather than enter the storm sewer system.

The project is a part of the city’s Capital Improvement Plan, and funding for the project has been included in its water, storm, and street millage fund budgets.

The stormwater parts of the project will be funded through the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s office.

The city will be responsible for paying the Water Resources Commissioner’s office back over a 20-year period for the stormwater improvements in the project, with a maximum annual payment of $19,000.


City of Ann Arbor

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


Dagrmc McEwen

Tue, May 14, 2013 : 12:40 a.m.

Congratulations Mayor; fix 1 street per year. You said Ann Arbor Saline at Eisenhower and bridge was going to be repaired this year. But you just can't get to it, too many other problems. You and Harry Reid must be twins, he can't get anything done either.


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

Just out of curiosity.... ambulance runs to the senior apts on 4th and Huron...where might the vehicles park? Hope the sidewalks are good enough to handle the gurneys in an emergency...I park out front to unload my groceries before I go to my parking....any suggestions on how many trips I should make hauling my food? Oh wait, maybe I can pay additional parking and go into the's gonna be a nightmare for our disabled residents that need special vehicle transport...

Vince Caruso

Fri, May 10, 2013 : 4:28 p.m.

Glad to see 4th getting some advanced stormwater management and repaired. Being in the Allen's Creek watershed this is long overdue with the pollution and flood hazard we are facing. City staff have indicated and published reports show these types of road treatments are very effective at greatly reducing flooding and pollution loading to our neighboring water bodies, and they cost less, even without including the environmental cost! The city is working on establishing guidelines to do more of these 'Green Streets' treatments which are critically needed in especially in high flood prone neighborhoods. With Lake Erie having record pollution loading and algae blooms reaching over 1/4 of the lake (15 M use it for drinking water!), and our area now getting record rain fall amounts with much flooding this is the right direction to proceed with streets we are going to be rebuild anyway. EPA is said to be planning crack downs on flows into rivers, like the Huron, flowing into Erie to protect this critical drinking water source, as well they should. Ann Arbor should be a leader in this effort. We need to do more testing with porous (or previous) pavement roadways which have the potential to obtain even better results as is already being taken advantage of in many communities in the US and other countries. We have installed a few porous roadways and I hope they will show the real advantages of this type of 'Green Street'. As a cyclist who uses this road regularly very glad to see it being done this summer.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:09 p.m.

While the repairs are needed, the cost is simply absurd - more than $1000 per foot. The city council needs to find contractors who are not in the business of ripping off the city.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 9:09 p.m.

The response to this article is anticipated. The word "bicycle" was used.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 7:34 p.m.

Don't worry it only takes a long time for road construction. This is just a bike path project.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

Why do I get the feeling the city will use this as an excuse to get rid of more street parking spaces? And, yes, I noticed the "cyclist and driver" comment too - it really shows you what the mayor's priorities are. If only he could find a way to reserve the street for low-income households.


Sun, May 12, 2013 : 4:32 p.m.

@ChrisW...don't you just love mayoral sycophants? LOL


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

Steve your condescension is showing...and who cares about the majority of cyclists...not me [and I am one as well]! I'm sick and tired of 90% of them running red lights endangering my crossing when I'm walking or when I'm driving !


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

The city did remove street parking spaces in the reorganization of the State & Liberty intersection area. It's possible they created replacement ones somewhere else, but they certainly got rid of spaces there.

Steve Bean

Fri, May 10, 2013 : 1:01 a.m.

ChrisW, I don't know. What do you know about them? Are you saying that the city wanted to eliminate those spaces?


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 12:07 a.m.

Yeah, actually. If I want to run in to grab a couple books, I don't want to mess with driving around that giant, annoying ramp. If I'm going out to dinner and will be there a while, sure. But not if I'm trying to get in and out in 15 minutes.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 8:05 p.m.

Steve, how about all of the parking on 4th Avenue taken over by the bus station?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 8 p.m.

Yes, frankly, it's way too time consuming to drive around in circles in our poorly designed parking ramps just so I can pickup food at Banditos. If the ramps were better designed with faster access to upper floors (like Cobo Hall or Metro Airport's new lot) it would be much less trouble.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 6:07 p.m.

Who needs a half dozen street parking places when there are several giant parking decks right nearby with thousands of spaces? Too hard to drive up a ramp?

Steve Bean

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 5:43 p.m.

"Why do I get the feeling the city will use this as an excuse to get rid of more street parking spaces?" I suspect it's because you habitually make up falsehoods and then believe them. Where/when has the city removed street parking spaces? I've worked in the past with DDA director Susan Pollay to identify additional on-street spaces, some of which have since been converted from traffic lanes to parking, including the west side of Main St. between William and Packard. Absent evidence to the contrary, I suspect that the DDA and the city would both prefer to not lose any on-street spaces and add them if possible. "it really shows you what the mayor's priorities are" There you go making things up again. Is that true? Or could it have been a random ordering of words? Or and emphasis on the dangerousness of the road condition for cyclists though it's a rough ride for both groups?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 3:47 p.m.

Finally this disastrous roadway will be repaired. I hope it's done in the allotted time, but so what if it isn't? Fifth Ave by the post office was shut down for the better part of two years. This project will be a blip compared to that.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 3:44 p.m.

Judging by that crosswalk picture, pedestrians will get a benefit, too. You could sprain your ankle in those potholes.


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 5:25 p.m.

I have, as well as injured my knee in a fall when I twisted my ankle in a small hole with loose can imagine all of the less than sober sorority ladies in 5" heels....


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 3:17 p.m.

I sure hope the Capitol Market doesn't close!


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

Or the Velvet Touch escort service!


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 4:48 p.m.

Or American Massage Parlour!


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 3:15 p.m.

It is what it is.Bets are it will take double the time.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

""I think every cyclist and driver would like to see this done," said Mayor John Hieftje." Notice the pecking order.

Lightnin' Bug

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 6:56 p.m.

How true. On that note, when are we going to start seeing rickshaw style bike cabs around here?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 6:05 p.m.

As is should be here in the People's Republic.

Amy Biolchini

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

The following detour for this project is as follows: For traffic northbound on Fourth Avenue, motorists will be directed to turn right on to Liberty Street, left on Division Street and left on to Huron Street. For traffic southbound on Fourth Avenue, motorists will be directed to turn left on to Huron Street, right on to Fifth Avenue and right on to Liberty Street.

Steve Bean

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 5:43 p.m.

Thanks for the followup and the initial detailed reporting, Amy.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 5:23 p.m.

Go around the block = detour


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

Are we sure this is an OK think to do? Fixing the steet seems too auto-centric.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

It's true. There is nothing that outrages me quite like auto-centricity. Which is to say not at all.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

I love how even when the city does something the bleating lumps of misery on these message boards clamor for every day, the response is nothing but cynicism and of course the requisite cyclist/public art strawmen. Is there anything that could possibly happen in this city that you people would NOT be outraged about?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

what is a "steet" and how does one fix it...? ;)


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:01 p.m.

2 months = This will finally be finished sometime in mid 2014.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

"I think every cyclist and driver would like to see this done," said Mayor John Hieftje. Wrong. Not me. Not me.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

Street closures downtown probably don't even affect business at all. I would guess that the percentage of customers that NEED to drive down the streets in front of their business is 0%. This isn't really comparable to construction projects like West Stadium...that went over by a year I believe, and definitely damaged business along that corridor.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 7:04 p.m.

Liz.....they also shut down the PARKING LOT that was behind EJ and JG during that construction...THAT would have been a huge contributing factor beyond just street closure. In this case it is JUST street parking. If they were to close say....the parking structure next to it.....THAT would hurt all the business in that area.

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 4:31 p.m.

This story Ryan Stanton wrote in 2011 sticks with me: Jerusalem Garden and Earthen Jar owners say their businesses felt the effects of the Fifth Ave project. It seems even if people can still walk by on Fourth Ave, not having that driving traffic could be an issue. I feel for the new businesses on the street!

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

It can't help businesses to have the street closed to cars. But I see the point that maybe a fair amount of their customer base didn't necessarily park in front of the store.

Top Cat

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

Sure, people never think about convenience when they are making decisions as to where to shop or dine.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:07 p.m.

"The project is a part of the city's Capital Improvement Plan" Does that mean the project is being saddled with the "1% skim for art" surcharge?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:38 a.m.

Thumbs up!

Martha Cojelona Gratis

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:37 a.m.

The goal is to have construction completed before Art Fair. But what if it's not?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

@top cat.....noooooo!


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

I'm sure people are thinking back to the Garage Mahal (Library Lane) street closures and how they lasted MONTHS longer than predicted by the DDA. I think this time they have professionals running it, though.

Amy Biolchini

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:05 p.m.

The targeted completion date is July 12.

Top Cat

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:40 p.m.

Move the Art Fair to Ypsi?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:37 p.m.

Then life will go on.

Tom Joad

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:33 a.m.

The obvious question is: Will Washington St be blocked at Liberty St? Also, that would be effect, not affect in "Concerned about the affect construction"

Amy Biolchini

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:04 p.m.

Tom, the grammatical error has been corrected. Washington Street will be blocked at the South Fourth Avenue intersection for the duration of the project.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

@ Tom Washington and Liberty Streets are parallel and don't intersect.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 10:32 a.m.

DId the winning bidder provide any sort of warrant for their work? Did any of the bidders?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 3:42 p.m.



Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:20 a.m.

What would they need a warrant for?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 10:28 a.m.

That section from Washington to Huron is a disaster. That was the detour route for some other road construction. It started falling apart back then and has been down hill since. And the Mayor's right, I take that by bike every weekend. It's the most direct route from the Library to Farmer's Market, but when I think of it I take Division instead to save my hands.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 8:36 p.m.

I agree. I drive down that portion of 4th every single day and the road is horrible. I feel like my shocks are going to bust from how bad that road is. I will even put up with it being down for 2 months to get that horrible road fixed.

Chip Reed

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 10:22 a.m.

Don't worry. What could possibly go wrong?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

my mind is conjuring a vision of a huge geyser of water drenching everything within range.....