tcr kalkaska construction

Downtown Kalkaska will get a new look as the village upgrades sidewalks, lights and more. Construction is set to begin in August.

KALKASKA — Kalkaska will soon be under construction as the village redesigns two blocks of Cedar Street, the four-lane road where drivers on M-72, M-66 and U.S. 131 roll through downtown.

The streetscape project slated to begin in August will mean new curbs, sidewalks, benches, landscaping, lighting, crosswalks and bike racks for Cedar Street between Third and Fifth streets.

“I’m thrilled with the streetscape,” said Duane Bills, owner of Lambertson’s Gifts & Antiques in downtown Kalkaska. “It’s going to be a wonderful renovation consisting of four nicely done blocks. I think it will let tourists know something’s going on in the area and it should promote more drive-by and stop traffic.”

McKerchie Enterprises, Inc. won the project at a bid price of $1.17 million. The village received a $750,000 grant in February from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to put toward the redesign, and will provide the rest from its own coffers.

Cash Cook, director of the village’s Downtown Development Authority, said construction will tear up sidewalks and disrupt downtown business, but the DDA will work with business operators who don’t have rear entrances to make sure customers can get through their doors.

Susan Cornell owns one of those businesses. Cornell’s Crossing is on the corner of Cedar and Fourth streets, and the only way customers can get inside the store is through the front entrance.

Cornell is happy to see downtown renovation, but concerned the work planned for November outside her store will hurt business during Christmas shopping season.

Cornell’s Crossing is a Hallmark store, so she can’t adjust the timing of her seasonal promotions and events.

“My open house is second week of November,” she said. “We will be a mess by then.”

Cook said construction will start in August on the southeast downtown quadrant, in front of the trout statue. The northeast quadrant will be next, followed by the north then south quadrants on the other side of the street. Construction in each quadrant will take about a month.

Dividing the construction should keep downtown accessible, so just one side of one block will be torn up at a time.

That’s a move Bills appreciates. Bills said construction in front of his store won’t start until late fall, after summer travelers and leaf color enthusiasts have left town.

“The DDA’s worked really well to make sure they covered our backs and let people see the construction but still be able to stop in front of our stores,” he said.

Bills is happy the downtown blocks will match with the same style light fixtures, trash cans and benches. He hopes the improvements will slow traffic and encourage drivers to stop and visit.

Gerald Beebe owns Jerry’s TV & Appliance, with his wife Sharon Beebe. They’ve had the downtown appliance repair business for 40 years and have been in their downtown store for 33 years.

Beebe said the biggest problem with downtown Kalkaska’s looks are the storefronts, not the sidewalks or curbs.

“I think (the DDA needs to) somehow get organized, get some of these business people to update the front of their buildings because they look kind of shabby,” Beebe said.

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