Murch: The places we want to show visitors

Think about your hometown, whichever one it might be in Northeast Michigan (or elsewhere if you are reading this online). How would you explain it or what would you highlight to an outsider who is trying to get a better perspective? Where would you take them so they could understand why you love and enjoy your hometown?

No two answers are likely to be the same.

Now, instead of just taking them to your favorite spot, or the place you enjoy the best, narrow it to why you like your downtown. Let’s face it, some downtowns are better than others, but Northeast Michigan has some nice ones.

I’m partial to Alpena’s but I live here. That being said, however, there are aspects of other area downtowns I like too.

I sit on the Main Street Steering Committee, which has a nice cross-section of downtown business owners and other representation on it. The task at hand is to work on the application process as the DDA applies for Main Street Select Level. Boiled down, Main Street is a federal and state backed initiative that helps communities grow and become more vibrant.

Currently, there are 22 Michigan communities at the associate level, including Alpena; there are eight at the select level. As you can imagine, the select level offers more for those communities than those at the associate level. Only two or three communities will be chosen for the select level this year, so Alpena is competing against as many as 22 communities, though there may be fewer than that.

A week from Tuesday – Oct. 1 – a representative from Michigan Main Street will be in town for a Main Street presentation in council chambers at city hall. At that time she will be taking notes to help better identify the area the committee is trying to designate for the application.

The committee has had two meetings where we’ve discussed the area to be designated, and while we’ve somewhat developed an idea of the area, we haven’t nailed it down. There are criteria to where and how the area is chosen, but that still leaves plenty of room for the selection.

So go back and think about where you would want to take someone and show them so they can help you improve it. How would you frame the presentation so they see what you see?

Let’s use Alpena (again, I’m biased) and downtown to frame it in terms of Main Street. I’m framing it by using downtown’s intersections, and I only need two to give you a picture to start, the rest is up to you.

Stand at the corner of Second Avenue and Chisholm. Looking toward the river, you get a view of the quaintness Alpena’s downtown has – small shops with apartments above, trees lining the street, and a classic look of a downtown. Turning 180 degrees, you have Culligan Plaza and to the left beyond Culligan Plaza is historic Trinity Episcopal Church. Straight down Second you have classic old-building feature where the Black Sheep Pub is, directly across from the very modern First Federal building; and beyond that is historic First Congregational Church. And don’t forget that views of Chisholm show it to be the main artery for traffic in downtown, not to mention the bay is only a couple blocks away.

The other intersection is the opposite side of that block – First Avenue and Park Place. You have city hall, the library, the Coast Guard station, and The Alpena News offices. While it might not be something you think of when you picture quaint downtowns, you have city hall, which is historic and quite pleasing visually; the library, which is vibrant and a hub of activity most days; The News, which has been on this site for over 60 years and has been the newspaper of record for over 114 years; and the Coast Guard, which is an American institution. A different vibe from the other intersection, but interesting for other reasons.

You have two quick snapshots I have to offer, but there are so many more. So where would you show a visitor and why?

Steve Murch can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5686. Follow Steve on Twitter at sm_alpenanews. Read his blog, Pardon, Me But … at