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Murch: Time to move on from the civic center era

March 16, 2012
Steve Murch - Managing Editor , The Alpena News

The end of an Alpena era came tumbling down on Tuesday, as the Alpena Civic Center was razed. The pile of rubble is being removed and eventually a new business will be in its spot. With the demolition came a flood of memories by people in the community.

There have been countless wedding receptions, proms, banquets and other gatherings. Everyone I've talked to seems to have a fond memory of the building. Memories are great, but I say thank God it's gone.

I'm sorry if you loved the building, but ... it was UGLY. And it had long since become antiquated with a price tag to repair it beyond what the city could afford or was willing to try. If the city had paid for the repairs they were well beyond cosmetic improvements the return on investment might never have been achieved. The building would have needed to be used for decades to balance out the costs to repair.

I know there are a lot of people who are sentimental about the building, but sentimentality doesn't pay for all the repairs and modernization. Yes, if the building were repaired, it still would need to be modernized just to make it appealing and that adds cost to it too.

The civic center stood as a testament to Alpena itself built mostly of concrete block paying tribute to both the cement plant and Besser Co. at the same time. However, it was never an architectural wonder that would you make people ponder anything. It was a brownish-gray concrete building, nothing more nothing less. And it was always dark inside even during sunny days.

Alpena is filled with architecturally appealing buildings, but the civic center wasn't one of them. If you think so, then I apologize. We all have our own tastes.

But as a community asset, its best days were ages ago. It's time to move on.

I understand the disappointment many felt when Gene Skiba was accepted as the purchaser because they didn't want a car dealership going in there. However, any business probably would have been dismissed by them. The fact is, Gene is a businessman, and a good one. He knows people will keep an eye on his business because the civic center used to occupy the corner of US-23 North and Johnson Street. He's not going to let the parcel go to pot. It will be well maintained, just like the other lots in town, and the one being constructed almost across the road.

Which brings us to the other factor in this equation lodging.

The APlex is an outstanding facility and one that can help lure more conventions to Alpena. However, it's not the only factor. We desperately need motel rooms in town for that to happen.

When the Fletcher Motel closed it took more than 80 rooms with it. Conventions bring people, people need places to sleep. Those people not only need a place to sleep, they also eat and shop when in town also known as spend their money here. We need that too.

While we have some outstanding motels in town, they simply aren't enough to bring a large group to town for a convention of any sort. But it's a vicious cycle we need the motel rooms to bring in the conventions but we need the conventions to entice someone to bring in more motel rooms. We need someone to take that chance.

The Alpena Civic Center is gone. May the memories live on as the building's life comes to a merciful end. Now it's time to move on.



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