As Sister Bay moves closer to the starting date for downtown reconstruction, business owners prepare for a year of detours, rock cutting and hot asphalt.
The Sister Bay road reconstruction, taking place from May 2015 to May 2016, will see changes on Hwy. 42 from Country Walk Drive to Scandia Road, including a small section of the Hwy. 57 hill leading into downtown.
The road construction is part of a great overhaul of the Sister Bay aesthetic that will include burial of power lines, which began in early February, and the beach project that will develop the waterfront area into a greater tourism asset.
“A better waterfront, bigger sidewalks, being able to drive down the hill and not see any power lines… It’s going to be awesome,” said Britt Unkefer, owner of BierZot Café in downtown Sister Bay.
“Two summers ago I was out with the boys on the schooner and Big Mouth was playing music at the park. People were playing on the beach and enjoying the music. You don’t see that anywhere in Door County. A lot of people I saw that night were residents, not tourists,” said Unkefer, who believes the improvements to downtown pose as great a benefit to Sister Bay residents as the tourism.
Although the end product will provide a more pedestrian-friendly community, business owners will still have to battle a year of road construction.
“We don’t really rely on foot traffic as much as other villages do,” said Drew Bickford of On Deck Clothing Company. “They drive through, they park and then they walk around.” Bickford is happy with the way the Sister Bay Advancement Association has prepared the businesses for the upcoming changes.
“We just need to let people know that Sister Bay is open for business, that they can come here,” said Laura Wilker, manager at On Deck.
“We negotiated with the DOT so that they’re starting as early as they can,” said Bickford, who is not concerned that the project will take longer than expected.
Sister Bay struggled to meet its deadline for the Bay Shore utility project in 2014, which has some in the village worried about the timeline for this upcoming project.
“It’s all based on production rates,” said Village Administrator Zeke Jackson, who stated that the rock outcropping throughout the village may be difficult for contractors to cut through as construction begins.
“I’m worried about [delayed construction] but there’s really nothing they can do,” said Unkefer.
“We learned a lot from that project as far as signage that is needed with the detours,” said Bickford.
Unkefer commends the Village of Sister Bay for being transparent with the process.
“They’ve given us plenty of notice… the board has been so upfront about everything so I’ve known all along what is happening,” said Unkefer.
The Sister Bay reconstruction is the first downtown area on the docket that includes Egg Harbor, Gibraltar and Ephraim over the next three years.
“Other communities should be happy Sister Bay is going through it first so the rest of the communities can learn from it,” said Unkefer.