City takes lead in Plaza Palooza

ALPENA – The Alpena Downtown Development Authority took the lead in the study and preliminary design process for a downtown plaza in Alpena. Director Lesslee Dort did a lot of the work while City Manager Greg Sundin balanced his time between filling in as interim manager and the city’s planning and development director. Now that Sundin has been hired as the full-time city manager and new planner Adam Poll is in place, the city is taking the lead on the proposed project.

Poll is working with the DDA to find funding to have further studies done to discover potential impacts a plaza in the parking lot behind the Owl Cafe would have. He said as of now the process is moving forward slowly, but is not dead.

“Well right now it is not moving ahead very fast,” Poll said. “We are still meeting, but not much has happened. We are still looking for grant money to do an impact study and have design plans that would address things like traffic, trash pickup and parking. Those things cost money and we need to find it first. Right now it is not dead, but it is not moving forward very quickly either.”

A study and design process done by Michigan State University titled Plazapalooza locally, showed that having a plaza in the heart of downtown would lure people to downtown and the businesses would benefit from it. It also would provide a place for the community to gather and things for people to do.

Poll said he knows there are people in Alpena who would like to see a plaza built, but that there others, who aren’t sold on the idea yet. He said if a plaza is to be built, everyone in the community must be behind it, especially the businesses downtown.

“We still need to get all of the businesses on board with it. Right now some are and some aren’t. Having them all in it together is important,” Poll said. “In my experience I think the plaza would draw people downtown and draw people from outside of the area as well. It would operate as a gathering place for events and activities, which would have a positive impact in the business community. Yes. Parking would be impacted, but we would obviously have that looked at closely and have a plan that would try to accommodate as many people as possible.”

The DDA currently is attempting to get a portion of the downtown a Select designation from Michigan Main Street, which would allow it to utilize many services provided by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

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