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Ideas abound for plaza

December 13, 2012
Steve Schulwitz - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ALPENA - The design team from Michigan State University have been given the task to gather ideas on what a community plaza in downtown Alpena should contain sat down with groups of residents on Thursday to get their thoughts. The team was taking notes and doing some rough sketches of some of the suggestions and will attempt to incorporate some of them for a preliminary design which will be unveiled on Saturday during a special presentation.

On Thursday residents of all ages shared their ideas with members of the team. Some of the ideas were extravagant, such as incorporating a large lighthouse at the plaza, to the more subtle like having an outdoor food court. Michigan State Extension senior educator Dean Solomon said the number of people who visited the Center Building Thursday was about what was expected and good ideas were shared. He said those who couldn't make time to meet with a designer Thursday will have another chance today.

"Tonight was terrific and I was really impressed with the enthusiasm with the project as well as the ideas the folks had," Solomon said. "The vision is different from person to person, but almost all of them like the idea of people coming downtown, of having activities they can take part in and other parts of the town."

Article Photos

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz
Michigan State University Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Warren Rauhe sits with a group of local residents to collect ideas and suggestions about what should be included in a proposed downtown plaza. People will have a chance to share their ideas again today and a rough draft of the plaza will be unveiled on Saturday at the Alpena County Library.

Bri Dixon, who is 16 and attends Alpena High School, said she would like to see a plaza that would provide people her age a place to go that wouldn't cost a lot of money.

"I think it would be cool to have something for kids my age to have that is outdoors besides the Kiddie Park where people our age can sit and appreciate and enjoy," Dixon said. "I picture something shaded, and maybe something like an outdoor venue for entertainment, but nothing that would compete with Frequencies."

Judy Cook has lived in Alpena for 40 years. She said she supports the idea of building a plaza downtown, but does have some concerns about its possible location behind the Owl Cafe.

"The location is OK I guess, but I'm not completely sold on it yet. If they build it they should build something high enough so we can see the water of Lake Huron," Cook said. "I like the idea of a lighthouse because that would allow people to go up high and see over the buildings.'

Gordon Breckenridge said he questions whether the location is the best in the downtown because he believes it would cause a lack of places for people to leave their automobiles. He said he also wonders what the economic benefit would really be.

"They said it would take up about 10 percent of the downtown parking spaces and it just seems to me if we have a problem with parking now, that maybe surrendering another 10 percent is not a good idea," Breckenridge said. "I'm not sure what I would like to see in the plaza, but what I would like to see is what they have done in other areas. Did it actually work? Did it actually restore other downtown areas? I also wonder how the businesses on the peripheral of the city feels about it."

Dixon said people who would like to meet with a member of the design team can do so today from 5-7 p.m. at the Center Building. Then on Saturday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. the preliminary plans will be shown at the Alpena County Library. The team will then leave after gathering some more data and return in March with plans which are a little more developed. A final plan is not expected to be released until late spring or early summer.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5689.



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