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Alpena DDA considers expansion

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Rusty Petunia owner Laura Shearer, left, and Miya Ayala tidy up a holiday product display at the store on Tuesday in downtown Alpena. The Alpena Downtown Development Authority is considering expanding its district to include more businesses.

ALPENA — The Alpena Downtown Development Authority hasn’t expanded its boundaries since 2004, but officials are considering doing so now.

The expansion would need to clear some hurdles, but would increase the number of businesses eligible for DDA programs and funding. It would also mean property owners within the expanded district would see a slight increase in their taxes.

DDA Executive Director Anne Gentry said the DDA was approached by several business owners about a possible expansion. That sparked some early conversations, but the plan is still in its infancy.

Gentry said businesses would benefit from being under the DDA umbrella in several ways.

“With the money we collect, it goes back into investments that benefit the downtown business community,” she said. “That also includes marketing, events for tourists and locals, beautification projects, and financial assistance programs. By expanding the DDA, it would allow us to do these types of projects for the businesses that would be added.”

Currently, the DDA district encompasses all of the immediate downtown around the 2nd Avenue-Chisholm Street intersection to the Thunder Bay River and stretches across the 2nd Avenue bridge to Miller Street and areas that include businesses in the 3rd Avenue and Washington Boulevard area and Fletcher Street and River Street sections of the city.

Ben Young, owner of Players Pub and Grub on 9th Avenue, said he hopes the DDA district is expanded, because many businesses in his portion of town could use the amenities the district has to offer. He said one of the DDA’s goals is to revitalize areas and businesses that need it, and the area where his tavern is located fits that description.

“Its main purpose is to take the worst areas of the city and help make them better,” Young said. “It has a great job downtown, and it would be nice if it could move the focus on other areas that are a little tired-looking and worn out.”

Young said there has been some private investment near the intersection of 9th and Chisholm, but more assistance is needed to help it reach its full potential.

Expanding the DDA would mean property owners in the district would see a 2-mill increase on their taxes — about $100 a year for the owner of $100,000 in property — and a Tax Increment Financing fee that covers the DDA operations. The money, Gentry said, would all be used by DDA and future projects and business support programs.

As things move forward, Gentry said, the DDA intends to hold public meetings and frequent updates. She said the move would have to be approved by the DDA board and the Alpena Municipal Council.

“We are extremely early in the process, but we have received good feedback, so far,” she said. “We want to be sure everyone, especially the businesses, are on board with this before we proceed.”

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