Officials seek more space as downtown Alpena grows

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz An employee from Omega Electric puts the finishing touches on a new sign for a brewery that will be opening in downtown Alpena soon. Downtown is growing, and there are few locations available for new businesses. Local economic development leaders say they will do their best to accommodate businesses looking for a home.

ALPENA — For people wanting to open new businesses in downtown Alpena, finding a location to do so is becoming a challenge.

In the last year, there have been a host of stores to either move downtown from The Alpena Mall, or new startups hoping to establish themselves.

Alpena Downtown Development Authority President Mike Mahler said the occupancy rate in downtown is very high, and that he has a list of people looking for property to open businesses. He said it is good that the downtown is on people’s radar, and he is doing his best to find suitable places for more businesses.

“Things are pretty much filled up, we don’t have the space to meet the demand,” Mahler said. “We just don’t have the space right now.”

The closure of the mall motivated businesses there to move downtown, which filled up vacant properties quickly. Properties that were once available a block or so from the heart of downtown are also filling.

Mahler said there may be more space available in the future and referred to The Vaughn, which was a downtown department store decades ago, but is being renovated by local investor Jeff Konczak.

Konczak is also doing major renovations to the former Royal Knight Theater, and State Theater.

“I’m not sure when it is going to be done, but I don’t think he is going to have a hard time finding tenets,” Mahler said.

Konczak also owns the Harborside Mall near downtown. There is a Save A Lot store as an anchor tenant, and Glik’s recently moved in. There are other scattered small businesses throughout the mall, which will reach its capacity soon too.

Mahler said there are some underutilized buildings near downtown, but most people want to be where there is large amounts of foot traffic, such as Second Avenue, and Chisholm Street. He added there are many offices downtown that someday could move into other locations, which would free up retail space.

Mahler said a new brewery on Chisholm Street should be opening soon, and he recently reached out to a popular Gaylord restaurant, which may be looking to add a new location.

The Iron Pig Smokehouse in Gaylord recently ran a poll asking people where the next restaurant should be opened and Alpena was the top choice by nearly 900 votes over the second place finisher.

Mahler said he saw the poll and the response to it, and made several calls to the owner. He is still waiting for a return phone call.

“I really want to talk to them,” Mahler said. “I would love to sit down with him and find out what he is looking for and what I can do to help. It sure seemed like the people in Alpena made their voices heard, and I’m sure he saw that.”


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