Plans unveiled for plaza

An ice skating rink and a fire pit in the winter and a sprinkler park surrounded by two stages for entertainment in the summer. Those are just a few of the features that were included in the final design proposal for a plaza in downtown Alpena.

During the unveiling presentation Thursday in the Granum Theatre at the Alpena Community College, people filled the auditorium to see what could be in store for the current parking lot behind the Owl Cafe, and what they will be able to use it as. There also are ample areas for people to sit and eat in a lightly landscaped portion of the plaza, which has four entrances covered with canopies.

The proposal includes a tall mast from a ship and boat portholes which would be equipped with high-definition screens in which videos about Alpena’s history can be played. Alpena Downtown Development Director Lesslee Dort said the final design was really a combination of three plans that were released several months ago. She said many of the ideas came directly from the minds and imaginations of the citizens who took part in the process early on. She said this is a proposed plan and that simple adjustments could be made to it when the plaza gets to the construction phase.

“It could morph as we build it,” Dort said. “This is a framework for us to use, but it is by no means the final product. I like all the opportunities in the design that allow people to gather for and I’m a nut for a fire, so I like the fire pit idea a lot. That would be a great place for the community to gather and also ice skate. We could hang around, roast a marshmallow. People need to remember this will not be a park. It will be a plaza and they are two totally different things.”

The design team from Michigan State University wanted something in the park that people could pose for a photo with, have it be safe and something that would be easily located by people not from the area. The location of the plaza will come at the cost of some parking space in town, but a parking study is currently being done and more information and ideas about parking options downtown should emerge from it.

Dort said the local businesses stand to benefit from the plaza, as they can offer up products to the people at the plaza. She said the next step is to finalize partnerships and review the parking study, before moving on to finding the money to construct it. Dort said she believes the plaza will become a reality.

“We need to put some committees together and address the parking concerns,” Dort said. “Finding the money is not even a concern for me. I know we will find funding because it is that great of a plan and idea.”

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