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Alpena DDA working to find business space on 2nd Avenue

ALPENA — The Alpena Downtown Development Authority is trying to find a way that will allow for more space for businesses on 2nd Avenue, downtown to utilize.

During a virtual meeting Friday, the board discussed closing a section of 2nd Avenue, from Chisholm Street to River Street, so more outdoor seating and sales areas could be created.

After discussion, and consideration of opinions from businesses in that area, the idea was tabled.

According to DDA Executive Director Anne Gentry, having the two blocks on the busy street closed could help businesses increase occupancy and make social distancing simpler.

She said there are other communities around the state that have made similar changes, or are considering it.

Gentry said even though the 2nd Avenue plan has been put on hold, the DDA is still looking into operations to free up space in that area.

“We want an area for them to be able to put out chairs and tables, or put out displays of their products outdoors if possible,” she said. “We will still look at maybe using the alleyways or maybe a few parking spaces. Trying to expand, and still meeting the needs of all the businesses is hard, so it was best to table it for now.”

Gentry said correspondence from business owners and managers were split, but concerns about the proposed change were legitimate.

“The way Second Avenue is positioned it would make it hard for people to get to the north side and to those businesses,” she said.

If any modifications are made near 2nd Avenue, Gentry said they need to be done soon.

She said as businesses open, more people begin to shop and visit bars and restaurants, extra space will help ensure businesses can service as many people as possible.

“Time is of the essence and it would be nice if we could have everything in place in time for summer,” Gentry said. “Plus the liquor control has eased some regulations to encourage more outdoor dining, so some of the businesses may be able to capitalize on that.”

Gentry said discussion will continue between board members and local business owners to see what the right way to proceed is. She said it is possible that of this year only a small space will be used and see how it plays out.

“If it goes over well, then we can always look to expand it next year or in the future,” Gentry said. “Like I said more and more communities are doing things like this to try to accommodate the businesses and create an enjoyable experience for the customer.”

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

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