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I Have Seen Downtown, and I Like It...

August 28, 2011 - Steve Schulwitz
Obviously I spend a great deal of time reporting on the happenings and progress made in downtown Alpena, but I really don't think it hit me about how large of strides have been made until I visited the downtown area on Sunday when the Old US-27 Motor Tour made an appearance in Alpena.

I have noticed the obvious structural improvements and had to stop my car more often to let pedestrians cross at the intersections. But on Sunday, when hundreds of people and cars gathered downtown, I couldn't help but reflect back to what the downtown area was, and what I hope it becomes.

It doesn't seem that long ago, when a business person would equate operating a business downtown to that of wearing an albatross around their neck. In other words they figured the odds of managing and sustaining a business, let alone having it become profitable, was a curse that could not be broken.

It doesn't seem that long ago, when for rent and for sale signs were posted in many of the vacant store front windows and there wasn't much of an attraction to the area, because many of the buildings were far from pristine condition and far from attractive to the eye. If there was a store in one of the older buildings, I probably would have passed on shopping in it because of its appearance, no matter what historical significance it might have or what products were offered.

How things have changed. Thanks to a concerted effort between the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, the Alpena Downtown Development Authority, the Alpena Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the city and others, downtown is relevant once more.

The environment is warm and inviting and the many shops and boutiques offer something for most anyone. The parking layout and signage are convenient and simple for people to use, no matter if it is a person's first time in Alpena, or their 100th. It has become another jewel in the crown that is Northeast Michigan.

When my wife and I travel, which we do often, we always set aside a few hours to visit the downtown districts of the cities we are visiting and we have found that to be quite enjoyable.

I think downtown Alpena stacks up well with any of them as it is today, but I know the effort of those determined to improve the area are not satisfied with the progress and continue to aim for a bar that is set much higher. I think the goals and expectations will be met. It may not be tomorrow, or even next year, but I look forward to watching downtown continue to grow and its businesses prosper. I for one will be making better use of what it has to offer. here's hoping others do the same.


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