'We have felt it': Capital Avenue business owners grapple with less foot traffic as bridge work continues

BATTLE CREEK — Donna Street is well versed in the ongoing Capital Avenue bridge reconstruction.

The owner of Sweet Magnolia's Massage and Wellness Center first learned of the project in February as she prepared to launch her business at 2513 Capital Ave. SW. Now, the bridge has been closed for nearly 80 days as it's rebuilt, with Street routinely fielding calls from clients wondering what's the best route to get to her business.

Ongoing construction at the Capital Avenue bridge over I-94 on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023.
Ongoing construction at the Capital Avenue bridge over I-94 on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023.

"I definitely do feel the impact," Street said of the bridge closure. "I know it is kind of an inconvenience for people and I know that does have some impact as to where they’re going to go for service."

Rebuilding of the Capital Avenue bridge over I-94 is on track to be completed by Sept. 23, but the closure is being extended an extra week as crews work to rebuild the westbound I-94 ramps at Capital, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

In the meantime, Street is one of many area business owners grappling with decreased foot traffic as a result of the ongoing construction. Business at the wellness center has started off slow for Street, but she said she'd rather have the project happening now while she's just getting the business off the ground rather than later on.

"I think maybe a few people have come in because of the detours," Street chuckled. "So you take the good with the bad.

"We do need these improvements in the city," she continued. "I can’t complain ... In the long run, it’s going to help all of us."

Owner and masseuse Donna Street works with client Josh Tolf at Sweet Magnolia's Massage and Wellness in Battle Creek on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023.
Owner and masseuse Donna Street works with client Josh Tolf at Sweet Magnolia's Massage and Wellness in Battle Creek on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023.

Derek King has owned and operated King Jewelers at 2811 Capital Ave. SW for two decades. This is the second major construction project his business has faced, with both making a noticeable impact, he said.

"We have felt it," King said. "It’s hard to put a number on it, but it’s definitely less customers per day."

While it's tough to see fewer people coming through the doors in recent months, King said he's grateful for the expedited timeline of the bridge reconstruction.

"I think getting it all done at once was the best choice," he said. "We’ll be OK, we’ll make it up once (the bridge) gets opened back up."

King Jewelers storefront along Capital Avenue in Battle Creek on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023.
King Jewelers storefront along Capital Avenue in Battle Creek on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023.

The bridge is slated to reopen to traffic on or around Sept. 30, much to the delight of area business owners.

"If I was still able to at my age, I’d be doing backflips," Street said. "I can’t wait to see all of the traffic coming through. I think the city should have a big bridge opening ceremony. So many people are going to be so happy, they really are."

Contact reporter Greyson Steele at gsteele@battlecreekenquirer.com

This article originally appeared on Battle Creek Enquirer: Capital Avenue business owners grapple with less foot traffic as bridge work continues