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Detroit — When a median was installed along the Avenue of Fashion 13 year ago, it impacted business but not in a good way, said Ronda Morrison, owner of House of Morrison Shoe Repair on Livernois. Her customers didn’t stop in as often.

“After that median, a lot of stores closed…” she said. “Just the inconvenience of having to pass and come back, pass and come back. … It was an inconvenience to them and an inconvenience to us.”

That controversial median will be no more as city officials and business owners celebrated Wednesday the start of construction to remove the barrier stretching from Margareta, two blocks south of 7 Mile, to 8 Mile. Construction noise filled the air as crews performed a ceremonial dig on the median in front of Morrison's shop. 

The median removal is part of the city's commercial corridor revitalization project funded through a $125 million bond program Mayor Mike Duggan announced two years ago. Plans on Livernois call for wider and better-lit sidewalks, cafe seating, landscaping and a separated bike path.

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Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan describes the improvements the Livernois Streetscape Project will create between 8 mile and Margareta Street Daniel Mears, The Detroit News

“What you’re going to have is a vibrant commercial district where people can spend time, do sidewalk shopping, eating, walking, biking,” Duggan said Wednesday. “We are going to tie the shops here back to the neighborhood.”  

The Livernois project is the first and most extensive of seven corridors to be constructed this year. Work is expected to be complete in November.

Among the features are one lane for traffic in each direction to reduce speeds and a dedicated center left-turn lane giving access to residential streets. Parking will be available on at least one side of the street, according to the city.

Sidewalks will be widened to 24 feet to accommodate cafe seating, lighting and landscaping. Bike lanes will be at sidewalk level.

Morrison said the median had made it difficult for customers to find her repair shop because of the fast-moving traffic.

 “I’m so happy about slowing down these lanes I don’t know what to do,” she said.

The other commercial corridor projects taking place in 2019 are:

  • McNichols from Livernois to Greenlawn
  • Kercheval from Parker to E. Grand
  • Joseph Campau from E. Jefferson to the Riverfront
  • Bagley from I-96 Service Drive to 24th
  • Riopelle from I-75 service Drive to Division
  • Grand River from Evergreen to Glastonbury

The construction of the Livernois corridor comes as the Avenue of Fashion has seen a resurgence of business. For example, last month, restaurant Table No. 2. opened at 18925 Livernois, and in March, streetwear brand Three Thirteen expanded its second location at 19495 Livernois. Construction continues on developer Matt Hessler's $8.3 million-redevelopment of the old B. Siegel department store that will include residential units, commercial storefront and underground parking.

Rufus Bartell, the owner of Simply Casual at 19400 Livernois, said he expects the Livernois corridor project to help draw talent and tourism to the neighborhood. Bartell is the president of the Independent Business Association, which has been involved in the effort for two years. 

"This is going to be a very, very important initiative that will allow us to have the kind of amenities to be able to keep some dollars and merchant dollars that also are leaked outside of our city today, whether it be to our beautiful surrounding suburbs. We would like to be able to keep some of that money in Detroit, specifically on Livernois," he said. 

According to the city, construction will take place in three phases, the first in May in June with the removal of the median and the installation of a center left turn lane. In July and August, crews will expand the sidewalks on the northbound side of Livernois. Similar work will take place on the southbound side of Livernois starting in September, officials said. 

Resident Marcus Cummings said he is appreciative of the officials and community members involved in the project that, he says, will expand and restore the corridor to its greatness. He urged shoppers to not forget about the businesses during construction. 

"We do not want you all to forget they will be open," he said. " So please shop and let's make them successful."

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN

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