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Building Uncertainty

Will projects resume? And if they do, will they spread the virus?

by Patrick Dunn

From the June, 2020 issue

Construction was one of the first industries Michigan allowed to reopen in May--but it wasn't immediately clear how much would actually occur. Scio Township supervisor Jack Knowles says that even he doesn't know if some projects are going to resume. A new retail development to the north of the Jackson Rd. Meijer store was ready to start when the pandemic hit, with earth-moving equipment on site. "Now the equipment's gone, and I don't know what their plans are."

Ann Arbor building official Glen Dempsey says he's not aware of any cancellations in the city. But the biggest approved projects are campus-area high rises--and with the future of on-campus education uncertain, investors may well rethink them.

Both Dempsey and Knowles stressed that they're just beginning to assess the pandemic's effect on construction. "It's going to take a while to see what the impacts are," Knowles says.

Work on the bike-pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks near Main and Depot streets never stopped during the shutdown--"considered essential continued without delay," Dempsey emails. Giant cranes installed three precast concrete tunnels overnight in May.

It was an impressive feat, but it didn't bode well for hopes of avoiding an infection "rebound." On two visits to the site that day, all workers were wearing hard hats and high-visibility vests--but many stood elbow-to-elbow, and not one wore a mask.     (end of article)

[Originally published in June, 2020.]


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