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Local development projects taking shape in Alpena

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Contractors work on the exterior of the new tower under construction at MidMichigan Medical Center- Alpena. The expansion at the hospital is one of several development projects underway. Economic development leaders continue to work with companies urging them to consider projects in Northeast Michigan.

If you pay close attention, you can see development projects taking shape around the Alpena area.

Economic development leaders also remain busy pitching and planning for future projects behind the scenes.

On Monday, Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Mike Mahler updated the Alpena Municipal Council on local development efforts, and what’s on the horizon.

One project is an effort to bring a popular grocer to Alpena, where the Alpena Public Schools bus garage is.

The proposed project has been in the works for sometime, and talks are ongoing.

“I am involved in several different projects both in the city and adjacent to the city,” Mahler said. “Among them is working on the Aldi project to determine if there is a path forward between APS, the developer and Aldi corporation. I am also working with the same developer on a potential retail project that has involved city staff as well.”

Mahler can’t reveal anything about the project in the city because of a confidentiality agreement, but did say it involves a well-known brand.

“It is a name people are familiar with, and we will be able to talk about it more when we are able to,” he said. “I will say it will be wonderful for the community if they come.”

Mahler did not give a location on where the possible development in the city is planned, or what the timeline is.

There are several ongoing development projects that Mahler said he is not involved with directly. Two of them are the expansion of MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena and the renovation of Van Lare Hall.

Other projects spurred-on by private investors include the new Ace Hardware on U.S.-23 North, and the complete renovation of the State Theater, Royal Knight Theater, and former Vaughan’s department store, which was most recently an antique mall.

All three buildings are on Second Avenue in downtown Alpena.

Jeff Konczak purchased the two theaters, and what he is calling The Vaughan, and is redoing them inside and out.

Mahler said these projects are key in helping to provide health, education, and shopping services for residents. He said they could help bring people to Alpena to visit or live and could spur more development.

“These people are spending a lot of money in town, hiring people, and for an outsider looking to relocate, it makes Alpena more attractive,” Mahler said. “It clearly makes our community more attractive for developers too.”

Mahler said there is a need for more retailers in the area, and he is recruiting businesses in that sector.

He said part of the challenge is getting retail chains to consider Alpena, but he is confident if they give it a fair shake, they will be impressed.

“I have spent considerable time and energy looking to large retail chains, and the developers they work with, to consider Alpena, and northeast Michigan as part of their expansion plans,” he said. “At times it is hard to get their attention. I am just trying to get them up here for a site visit. The point is, this is not easy, takes persistence, and requires making a compelling business case, to get them to come.”

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