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Kmart development plan earns support in Alpena Township

ALPENA TOWNSHIP — The Alpena Township Board of Trustees are one step closer to voting on a zoning change that could lead to the sale of and new businesses operating in the former Kmart building on U.S.-23.

At a special meeting on Monday, trustees voted unanimously to publish an ordinance that would rezone the site from “community business” to “light industrial,” allowing the firm Ideas 2 Production to open a manufacturing and product design business.

The ordinance will be published in the coming days and a vote is expected at the township’s next meeting on Monday.

During the short meeting Monday, residents spoke in favor of the proposed change.

Township resident Gary Partika said a lot of work has been done to clean up U.S.-23 South, but development is still lagging. He said the emergence of I2P could help spark more projects. Partika said the old Kmart has been a target of vandalism and has been covered with graffiti, but the company has already taken it upon themselves to clean it up.

“I’m really, really happy about this, and so should the township and people in Alpena,” Partika said. “With the number of vacant buildings and closed businesses we already have, we didn’t need another. I think this is going to be a great addition to the township.”

Larry Clark, president of a group dedicated to cleaning up that corridor of U.S.-23, said that, once I2P begins operations, it should lead to added commerce at stores and restaurants in the vicinity. Several years ago, there was a small surge in businesses opening on the highway, including O’Reilly Auto Parts, Dollar General, and Fitzpatrick’s Hardware and Lumber, Clark said.

Since that time, however, growth has slowed once more.

“We have had another round of closings, which has led to a few abandoned buildings that are still sitting there,” Clark said. “I think we all understand we are blessed that we have an entity that wants to come into the Kmart building and use it for its ideas. With it comes a huge potential for additional development — huge. I hope you move ahead to approve this.”

The board meets at 6 p.m. Monday at the township office, 4385 U.S.-23 N.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com.