ALPENA -The parking lot at the intersection of Third Avenue and River Street has been in need of repair for several years, but the city has pushed the job back due to budget concerns. This year $100,000 was budgeted to have the parking lot totally revamped, and beginning May 30 the replacement project will begin.
City Engineer Rich Sullenger said the city decided to scale back the original plans a bit. Before the plan was to add additional gravel under the new surface that would help to support the heavy traffic flow the parking lot receives. Sullenger said if done to the full extent the lot would last about 25 years. The updated plan will replace several catch basins, as well as remove some curbs and lay down two layers of asphalt. He said with the new plans it should last six to 10 years or longer. Because the projects plan has been reduced, the cost of the job is just over $53,500 or about half of what was budgeted. Sullenger said the money saved will be used to upgrade two other city parking lots.
"We elected to reduce the scope of what we were going to do a little and that attributed a lot to the lower bids we had received," Sullenger said. "The money will allow us to address the next two parking lots on the hit list and they are the two off of Lockwood Street. They are in about as bad as condition as the one on Third and River. We're not in a financial situation where we can go in and do expansive work, but I may be able to go in and do something similar to what we are doing behind the Owl and that should buy some time."
Sullenger said he estimates it will take the contractor, Goodrich Excavating, about three weeks to complete the work and it will be closed while the work is being done. He said the time frame could be altered if delays due to weather occur.
It is expected the downtown area will be busy this summer and by having the work done early it will save visitors problems when trying to navigate downtown when activity picks up. Alpena Downtown Development Director Lesslee Dort said the timing is perfect and the loss of parking space downtown should not be a big issue for the business near it.
"I think having it done now will be a benefit for everybody," Dort said. "We will have it done before the heavy tourist rush hits downtown. It is in May and school is still in and it should be done well before the Fourth of July, so it won't impede with that. If it were to have been done in August, then it would have been more inconvenient."
Dort said to adjust to the temporary loss of the parking lot, people will have to modify where they park, but she stressed there is a lot of parking in or near downtown. She said she thinks having people park on the fringe of town could help the businesses because there could be more foot traffic in front of the stores.
"We have over 1,000 parking spaces downtown and that lot consists of less than 70. We have lots of options for parking. We can use the ones along the river, near city hall and behind the armory," Dort said. "Maybe people will realize a downtown is there to stroll through. It isn't designed to park in front of one store, run in and get your item and then go back home. By walking through town the customer can see the new and exciting businesses that are open that they may not even know are there."
Sullenger said scaling back the parking lot plans, or delaying them in the past, had nothing to do with the possible construction of the plaza.
"The plaza is out there. Right now it is only a concept," Sullenger said. "I can't guarantee you one way or another what is going to happen with it and I can't plan projects on ifs. I plan a project based on the project, not what may be coming down the pike. When the plaza project started it we did back burner it for a short period of time, but now we need to do something just to make it safe and acceptable to park in."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com