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The heart of it all
June 9, 2011 - Steve Murch
Downtown Alpena has evolved through the last few years, gaining moment and changing with the times. Take a look at things like Scoops, the new ice cream parlor that opened on the corner of Chisholm and Second. Crews continue to work on the exterior and it is going to be eye catching when it is finished, a great look right on the main intersection downtown.
When you throw in a relatively new bookstore (now there are two right downtown on the same block), an eatery, a deli, a coffee shop, pub, restaurant, art gallery and more, there is a lot to bring people downtown. Throw in a couple of fitness facilities, cake shop and others, and there's a little bit for everyone.
The Friday Nights Downtown events have changed this year and will be spread out through the summer. These bring people downtown and provide family entertainment. The apartments downtown have been a focus the last couple of years, providing more foot traffic.
And yet, downtown is still very much a work in progress. It's not vibrant; busy, yes, but not vibrant. Improving, but still with a ways to go. Those who work and have a vested interest know this and continue to work to make it better. If more people were downtown, more businesses might be open later to accommodate them. That brings vitality to downtown – people and money.
Parking will be an issue, always. It's available, but it has a bad reputation. That's too bad, because most of it is perception. Frankly, some people (and like all issues, usually the loudest faction controls the conversation) just don't like to walk. They want to park right up front and don't want to walk anywhere. The parking lots in downtown could use some aesthetic improvements, making them looking less like a slab of concrete with curbs and yellow lines.
We still could use development along the river to come to fruition. If there would be shopping, walking and something to see on both sides of the river. People would want to spend more time there. Again, a captured audience likely to spend money.
A vibrant downtown is one that should be the heart of the community. The library is downtown in Alpena, as is city hall. The river bisects town, and a health Old Town would benefit from more people strolling around there, too.
Downtown Alpena continues to reinvent itself. Those who have spent blood, sweat, tears and money should be commended. It's up to the rest of us to help them by supporting their efforts and showing what the heart of a town came be like.
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