Final plans shaping up for plaza

ALPENA – Local officials and residents of Alpena will be able to get an update on the design plans for a future plaza in downtown Alpena. The Michigan State design team is going to unveil updated designs, which were crafted via community suggestions and visions, during the gathering today at Art in the Loft.

Downtown Development Authority Director Lesslee Dort said the event today will be one of the final steps in the design process. She said she already has seen the updated designs and people are going to be shocked at how the designs fit with Alpena and the downtown area.

“It is really a culmination of what came from the planning charette at the end of last year. We are going to see the result of that,” Dort said. “The designs are really cool and people are going to want to see them. There are a couple of different options, but I think the most exciting part is how it just fits.

“Once I saw what they have planned you could see the different areas of the communities input, which is really cool. It just looks like it belongs.”

If the plaza is built, it likely is going to be constructed in the parking lot behind the Owl Cafe where there are many businesses that can benefit from the foot traffic generated from the plaza. Dort said for the most part the business community is supportive of a plaza downtown and is excited to see the plans.

“I think the vibe is more positive now because people are starting to understand the difference between a plaza and a park,” Dort said. “That has been one of the hurdles, because a lot of people don’t understand what a plaza does. They don’t understand how critical to a community to have a place for the residents to hang out. It will be fantastic for our guests and visitors to have some place to go, but it is more for the people who live here.”

The designs for a plaza were made possible when Alpena was named as one of four cities to receive a grant from the Michigan Municipal League for possible projects. Dort said just because the plans are being made doesn’t mean it is a sure thing the plaza will be built, although she thinks it would be a benefit to residents as well as the local economy.

“I think there is another misunderstanding and that is people thinking we are going to build a plaza and we haven’t decided to build it,” Dort said. “We decided to take advantage of a grant and we were one of four out of 32 cities who applied. Because of the way the chips fell we had it designed before we made a decision to have one built. I think part of this is we are allowing ourselves to dream. It doesn’t mean it will be built. Let’s just keep our minds open to this economic development tool and that is what it really is.”

Today’s event is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and there will be a presentation about how Alpena was selected and what criteria were measured for Alpena to be considered for the grant. Dort said the design team will return in six to eight weeks with the final plans.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at