Plaza plans to be unveiled

After visiting Alpena and receiving suggestions on what the people in Alpena would like to see in a downtown plaza, the Michigan state design team has wrapped up its design procedure and is ready to unveil the final design for the proposed plaza.

Downtown Development Authority Director Lesslee Dort said the design team has done its best to incorporate some of the ideas in the plaza, which if built, will be located behind the Owl Cafe. Currently the land is owned by the City of Alpena and is used as a parking lot. Dort said she has not seen the final plans and won’t be able to until the rest of the community does.

“This is the end result of more than nine months of working with Michigan Place Planning, and the grant we received will come to an end after they unveil the conceptual design,” Dort said. “It doesn’t mean that is what we’ll build, but it is what they are recommending based on all of the comments from the people. This will include the best design ideas they had gotten from the people of Alpena.”

Dort said the presentation will take place at Alpena Community College’s Granum Theatre. She said the unveiling ceremony will begin at 7 p.m., but the public is encouraged to arrive early to have a bite to eat beforehand.

“There will be a celebratory picnic in the parking lot and just before 7 we will all make our way inside,” Dort said. “It starts at 6 p.m. and is for the public. Anyone can come down and have a hotdog, chips and share a soda with us, and then go see what the new plaza could look like.”

There is still a lot of work to do before the plaza becomes a reality. Dort said now that the design process has been completed, her focus will shift to other issues such as parking, concerns of nearby businesses and finding funding to construct it.

“The next step will be to evaluate the parking study which will be concluded Wednesday and to get our ducks in a row and find out what our financing options are,” Dort said. “We need to talk to other communities that have done this and find out the pulsses and minuses so we can learn from those. We also need to really sit down and talk to the businesses that will be directly affected to be sure they can operate smoothly. The goal for the plaza is not to interrupt business. The goal is for it to increase the business, and that is what all of the research has shown us that it will.”

The DDA, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Target Alpena and the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce have been working hard to make downtown more attractive and appealing to businesses, visitors and citizens. They have all played roles in making sure flowers and decorations are in place and to have available seating and amenities downtown. Dort said it is all part of the plan not only to get people from out of the area downtown, but to lure locals to it more often.

“We’re trying to make downtown Alpena the gathering place,” Dort said. “Where your residents hang out, that will also be where your visitors will hang out as well. The plaza would be that comfortable third place. One place is your home, the second is your work and the third is the place you enjoy. The plaza can be that. That’s what we are trying to develop here. It is not just for visitors. It is for the residents first and foremost.”

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