ALPENA - The effort to improve the US-23 South corridor began when some residents noticed significant amounts of trash lying on the sides of the roads and took it upon themselves to begin picking up the debris while taking daily walks. Since then the effort to clean-up the area and to improve the living and business conditions has spawned to include businesses and volunteer groups.
Now the group known as "Taking Pride in Alpena," which includes Hal Neiman, Bob Young, Dennis Schultz, Larry Clark and others, are making an effort to work with the Alpena Township Board of Trustees and supervisor Marie Twite to form an authority which would allow the group access to grant funding for corridor improvements it does not qualify for currently.
Neiman said US-23 is a gateway to the city and it is important to keep it appealing for the people who live there, as well as current and future business. He said there is already a noticeable improvement in the appearance since work began, but the vision for the area's future must continue to be pushed forward.
"We realized that the passageway into Alpena's center core is weak at best and it needs to be dramatically improved," Neiman said. "We have been getting together figuring out how to do that. Basically the authority will create an access for funding."
At the township's last meeting Schultz and Clark, as well as Young, addressed the trustees and explained the benefits of forming an authority. They stressed that it would be a partnership, which would include one or more seats on the authority board, that way all of the entities will have a voice in the decision process. Schultz said for any plan to come together it is going to take teamwork and cooperation.
"It will not just be us who has a vested interest in this, this is not about 'we,' this is about everyone who makes up the authority and everyone on the authority determines how the money would be spent. An authority provides a vehicle for funding and allows us to purchase property."
The group has done its homework and researched authorities in other communities that were created for similar purposes. Much of the information has already been forwarded to the trustees to review before voting to pass a resolution of intent to create an authority.
"We want to talk to them about other experiences that are similar and that we have an opportunity to be a part of and improve the township in the process," Neiman said.
Much of the township's attention in terms of development has been on the M-32 corridor, but Young, Clark, Neiman and Schultz say there is an opportunity to grow business on the other side of town as well. Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce Director of Economic Development Jim Klarich agrees. He said there are properties that can be appealing to potential investors.
"First a vision of what you want to be needs to be established and that will set the stage for good things to happen," Klarich said. "We have to package the corridor's story and present it to companies that are relevant. I think you'll continue to see the big box companies out on M-32, but there is another tier of retailers, commercial or hospitality enterprises that make a lot of sense and could locate on US-23 South. I think the guys from Taking Pride in Alpena has done a tremendous job in the clean-up effort already and I think there is a lot of potential out there."
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.