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Downtown businesses tap into community support, funding

ALPENA — Two new businesses scheduled to open in downtown Alpena in the coming months continue their march toward completion, while other vacant properties are still waiting for new tenants that economic development officials hope to attract soon.

The owner of the Red Brick Tap & Barrel restaurant has been awarded a $622,000 Community Revitalization Improvement Program Grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, according to Adam Poll, Alpena planning and development director. The grant will aid in the cost of construction to revamp the old Dry Dock Bar and the living quarters above it. The owner of the building will pay for any costs above and beyond what the grant will cover.

“The project will include five apartment units on the second level and the restaurant area and other commercial space on the main floor,” Poll said. “Everything is a go and construction should start soon.”

Alpena residents will soon be able to sample beer from the new Inspiration Brewery, which will be located on Chisholm Street downtown. Poll said renovations on the store are ongoing, and he is eager to see what the finished product looks like.

“I hope we get to see the inside of it sooner rather than later,” he said.

At other properties in Alpena, the future is still up in the air. John Henry’s Coins & Antiques in downtown Alpena closed at the end of March after the death of its owner. At this point there are no plans in place for the large storefront on Second Ave., Poll said, but he hopes the space can be filled.

“To the best of my knowledge, the building is available and they are looking for a potential buyer,” Poll said. “The challenge with that site is it has a very large footprint, and there is a lot of commercial space on the main level, so finding the right person to fill that space will be something that needs to be done.”

As with the Red Brick Tap & Barrel, grant money could be available to help fund renovations to the former antiques mall, possibly to create apartments on the upper level and a commercial portion on the ground floor. The property could also be divided up into sections, Poll said, allowing more than one business to utilize the space.

“We have programs readily available to assist with that development if it is needed,” he said.

Hoping to fill another unused space downtown, Poll has been working with Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Jim Klarich to find buyers for the former Alpena Power Company office property on the Thunder Bay River.

“That is a site we are actively looking to develop, and we will continue to look at all options,” Poll said.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.