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Future projects in Alpena could include hotel, more retail

News Photo by Crystal Nelson A pile of rubble was all that was left standing of the former Alpena Catholic Central High School building on Tuesday afternoon. Demolition on the building began last week in preparation for a single story office building to be constructed and leased to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The former high school’s gymnasium will become the new home for the Alpena Boys and Girls Club.

ALPENA — The COVID-19 pandemic was expected to throw a monkey wrench in local development.

Thus far however, it has had little impact on projects planned before the pandemic and developers are considering future projects in the area.

At the Alpena Township Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday, Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Mike Mahler gave an update on new local development.

The list of ongoing projects brings tens of millions of dollars of new investment to the area, and other development projects are being considered.

The projects range from new retail and food establishments to a possible hotel downtown. Some projects are nearing completion, while others are little more than ideas at this time.

Mahler broke up his presentation into three categories: projects that are underway, ones that he’s hopeful about, and others where Alpena is on the radar for significant investment.

Mahler pointed to the $63.5 million expansion of MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena as a driver for new economic development opportunities. He said the hospital project, along with improvements made to Alpena Community College, make Alpena ripe for more development interest.

Perhaps the biggest news from the update was word that a developer is interested in opening another hotel in Downtown Alpena. Mahler said most of the work done this far has been exploratory, but said his contact owns many hotels and has a desire to build a multi-story hotel that includes both hotel rooms and retail.

“They have their site of choice, but it will require a lot of work to acquire it and get it ready for construction,” Mahler said. “There are a lot of moving pieces for this, but I’m going to work hard to make sure this happens, but we’re really early in the game yet.”

Mahler said work is also ongoing on Walnut Street where the new Michigan Department of Health and Human Services office will relocate, and the new Alpena Boys and Girls Club under construction next door, is also moving forward.

The new Ace Hardware on U.S.-23 North is taking shape too, Mahler said. Renovations are ongoing at the former Thompson Sales and Service on U.S-23 South, where a new retail store is opening. The store, called F&T, is popular for its wildlife trapping gear, Mahler said.

He said a new restaurant will open at the old Dunkin Donuts store on U.S.-23 South that will specialize in coney dogs.

Mahler said the projects on Alpena’s north side, as well as on both stretches on U.S.-23, are welcome.

“It is nice to see some development in areas where we really haven’t seen much,” Mahler said.

The move out of the Alpena Mall and into Downtown Alpena by Glik’s is ongoing and hopes are the apparel store can open around Memorial Day.

There are big plans in-store for the former Knights of Columbus building on Hamilton Road. Mahler said the new owners intend to open a large daycare facility that will mix childcare and education. Mahler said he likes that project because it fills a need locally, and may prompt more people to move to the area.

“That is one of the things I always hear, is that there isn’t enough quality daycare,” he said. “That is important when you are trying to bring young families into the area.”

Another project in the works involves building a new home for the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office. Mahler said it has outgrown its current location on Fletcher Street and is seeking a new home.

Thus far, Mahler has shown it property on Commerce Drive and property on U.S.-23 North near Industrial Park. A pair of private property owners are involved as well, but Mahler said he isn’t sure who they were.

Mahler said it appears the proposed Aldi grocery store on M-32 is a step closer to reality, as Alpena Public Schools recently received a design plan for a new bus garage, which Aldi would build in exchange for the land where the current garage is now on M-32.

Another project in the early stages, involves the property between the Meijer gas station and Culvers. Mahler said a developer wants to open three businesses there, and if they become a reality, he said, people should be pleased with what they are.

Mahler could not share the names of the proposed businesses.

Mahler said plans for a new Marshalls near Meijer are slowly moving forward. He said the developer is the same who intends to open the Aldi, but there is still work to be done before more concrete information about the project is released.

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