ALPENA -In order to create a downtown plaza that will fit the needs of everyone who lives or visits Alpena, the community had its first chance to submit ideas and concerns about the possible location of the plaza and what it might include during a forum at Art in the Loft on Tuesday.
Moderator Warren Rauhe, who is an associate professor of landscape architecture at Michigan State University, opened the dialogue with the crowd by asking questions and having others document the responses. Audience members were encouraged to jot down ideas and thoughts on the paper coverings on each table, which will be sorted through as well.
Rauhe said the he was pleased with the number of people who attended the event, which was called Plaza Palooza, and he said his team came away with some positive feedback that will be useful moving forward.
"The turnout was fantastic and the venue is just perfect for this type of conversation," Rauhe said. "The conversation was very good, but not only that, as I walked around and saw what people were writing on the tablecloths was impressive. They were all literally covered with writing. The input was excellent and it was a very positive evening."
Rauhe said in order for the plaza to be utilized and appreciated, involving the community in its design is a must. He said by including something for everyone it will be more generally accepted and supported.
"There is no substitute for the public input. You are talking about public space and a community and what it is going to be," Rauhe said. "Not only are there good ideas there, but it sets a direction of where you want to be in the future. When you don't have that, places get half built, don't get used and there are misunderstandings. This process helps guard against those things.'
The ideas from Tuesday's gathering will be forwarded to a team of designers who will work hand in hand with local people to help design the plaza. The team will be in town for a series of meetings and public input sessions Dec. 13-15. Rauhe said his team will begin taking the ideas and putting them into visuals. The drafts will be examined by the community and changes made if needed. Then with the use of computers, a real life visual of the plaza will be created. It is expected to be complete before the beginning of June.
"Tonight was all about words, but the next meeting will be all about pictures," Rauhe said. "It is about translating ideas into diagrams, graphs, and sketches of what this plaza could look like. We will start simple and then work our way into more details. It is the first step from going to words to pictures."