Plans for Holiday Inn revealed

ALPENA – There is going to a large addition to the downtown Alpena landscape on the shore of the Thunder Bay River next year in the form of a new 90-room, four-story Holiday Inn Express. The plan was unveiled to the Alpena Municipal Council by Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Jim Klarich and Alpena Planning and Developer Director Adam Poll, and representatives from Americorp Hospitality Group who have led the effort to bring a hotel to the city.

Poll said the five or six million dollar hotel will be constructed on property at River Street and Third Avenue. It will have 90 rooms, as well as meeting and conference space, an indoor pool and a terrace at the rear of the hotel where guests can enjoy a picturesque view of the river. Poll said the new development is a big deal, because it adds more hotel lodging which is needed in Alpena and it could lead to more development in the city as well as increased traffic into the businesses that are already established.

“This is going to be huge, because it is going to bring even more people down where they will be withing walking distance to all of the fine restaurants and shops. The economic impact should be huge,” Poll said. “People look at Meijer and know there will be other growth around it, well the same thing should happen from this investment in the downtown. It is going to show people the downtown is worthy of investment and bring a lot of people. I think it will bring a significant amount of future investment in the city, especially downtown.”

Ameriacorp Vice-President of Finance Veronica Jones said Alpena was attractive because of the prospect of future growth, the support of the community and its proximity to the water. She said this is a prototype hotel which will offer guests a blend of comfort, technology and service.

“This will be the first of its kind and the rooms, furniture and total design are focused on being user friendly and to offer the ultimate user experience from the time someone arrives until the time they leave. We are going to be more hands-on and welcoming,” Jones said. “We are excited in becoming part of the community of Alpena and continuing to grow our businesses in Michigan.”

Once built, 20 or 25 jobs should be created to operate and maintain the hotel and hopefully more will sprout in the local businesses who should see improved sales. Klarich said there has been a large need to add hotel rooms in Alpena and he began reaching out to companies to sell Alpena as a place to build. He said he has had a vision on where a hotel should be built and the new Holiday Inn fits what he thought was needed.

“The outreach program and recruiting began about two and a half years ago and I knew we needed lodging on the water, whether that be the river or the lake,” Klarich said. “We are a little underdeveloped on the water. We have people that come here every day who ask if we have any accommodations on the water and up unto this point we have had to say no. This will be the first development and hopefully we can package the appropriate footprint for future development to accommodate people’s desires.”

There are still some minor issues that need to be addressed by the city before ground can be broken. Monday the city voted to allow a connected drive and easement which will connect the hotel’s parking lot with one of the city’s. The council also voted to approve dedicating 20 parking spaces in the city owned parking lot behind the Cellar Restaurant to handle spill over parking should it be needed by the hotel. Poll said the logistics involving the site being a flood plane have been resolved and now there are only a few minor actions that need to be taken before construction will begin in the fall.

“The plan will have to be reviewed by the Downtown Development Authority and the planning commission then there are a few variances that will be needed, primarily for the parking and that will have to come from the Zoning Board of Appeals,” Poll said. “The financing will have to go through the Brownfield Authority and I’m assuming there will be a local tax abatement request that will also have to be approved by the council.

Poll said he is confident those matters can be resolved by the end of October, but doesn’t expect construction to begin until spring.

“Ideally they wanted to break ground as soon as possible, but the reality behind getting these things wrapped up in time to begin this year,” Poll said. “Maybe we can trim a few weeks off, but I just can see ground breaking before the spring.”

The council voted 5-0 to allow for the easement and for the 20 parking spots to be part of the plan, pending a variance from the Alpena Zoning Board of Review.

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