Business owners in downtown Saline have a lot on their plate as Michigan Avenue construction looms. Merchants are devising plans to entice shoppers to brave the construction and visit their shops. Others are trying to figure out ways to keep deliveries rolling in once the detours begin.
The last thing any downtown business owner wants to worry about is whether or not construction will impact their building.
For the most part, the owners of the buildings inspected by engineer Cheryl Early have little to worry about. Early is a former Saline resident who works as an engineer with Fitzpatrick Structural Engineering. She was brought to town by Saline Main Street and several property owners. Wednesday, she inspected several downtown buildings and reported her findings to the owners.
With construction comes vibration – and some concern from property owners.
“There’s always a little anxiety,” Early said, talking about the building owners as she inspected basements and walls. “That’s understandable. When you go to the doctor’s office, there will be some anxiety. I am diagnosing their buildings.”
Early said work crews are going to cause vibration when they dig deep to tear out the road and then again when they compact the new road. But, she said, she thinks the Saline buildings she inspected will hold up well.
“These are wonderful buildings in downtown Saline. Overall, I have little fear,” she said. “There are a few concerns and I’ve spoken to the building owners about them. But there’s nothing to be overly worried about in regards to the MDOT project.”
Early will provide building owners with a baseline report. If a building does move, the owner can then refer to the report and begin to ask questions.
Early also provided tips to property owners looking to minimize risk.
“One of the things anyone can do is keep the water out and keep the building weather tight. Maintain your window sills and down spouts to keep the water away,” Early said.
Early visited the Pineapple House (built in 1912 and remodeled in 1992), Key Bank (built in 1973), Mangiamo Italian Grill (Built in 1850 and 1872 and remodeled in 2010), the Zahn building (built in 1872), and the Girbach building (built in 1850).
Dean Girbach, whose building houses Accent Jewelers and the old barber shop, said that he and other business owners should probably have structural engineering inspections done more often, but that the construction project gave him the impetus to do so now.
“This was something we needed to do. I just wanted to make sure to take some precaution,” Girbach said. “Hopefully any issues that are brought up can be addressed before construction starts.”
Girbach credited Saline Main Street for working with property owners on this project.
Saline Main Street is known for all of its events but the group does much more and this endeavor is just another example, according to Executive Director Riley Hollenbaugh.
“We heard a concern from business owners downtown. They were worried about their basements and façades and we wanted to see if there was something we could do,” Hollenbaugh said.
Main Street officials heard many glowing recommendations about Early and Fitzpatrick Structural Engineering and decided to work with owners to bring her to town. The owners paid the firm for Early’s work. Saline Main Street is providing partial reimbursements to the owners.
“We provide many types of technical assistance to business and property owners in downtown Saline,” Hollenbaugh said.
Jill Durnen, President of Saline Main Street, said building owners will have other assurances. MDOT and the contractor will meet with building owners to take videos of their foundations prior to construction, Durnen said.
“Any damage caused by construction should be covered by the contractor’s liability insurance,” Durnen said. She hopes that won’t be necessary.
“There are also agreements built into the contract with MDOT and the contractor to use practices that minimize vibrations through the historic downtown area,” she said.
Main Street is also working with businesses on events and promotions designed to bring people downtown once construction begins.
“We’ve got a great plan and we’re going to make it a lot of fun to come downtown this year,” Hollenbaugh said.