Alpena closes alleyway, remodels for business use

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Hopside Brewery employee Doug Haines wipes down a table at work on Friday. The small business sits along a downtown Alpena alley that will close permanently and the small businesses along the alley will be able to utilize the extra room for outdoor dining and cocktails and events.

ALPENA — Earlier this month, the Alpena Municipal Council voted to permanently close the alley that runs between 2nd Avenue and 3rd Avenue behind the strip of Chisholm Street businesses that includes Rusty Petunias and Hopside Brewery.

The closure will allow more space for those businesses to expand their outdoors offerings and improve the walkability of the downtown area, officials say.

Anne Gentry, executive director of the Alpena Downtown Development Authority, said crews continue to work on moving the handicap parking and dumpsters behind the businesses and pushing forward with large flower boxes that will be installed along the alleyway.

Gentry said the alley will undergo other improvements to transform it into a gathering space where people can enjoy outdoor dining, cocktails, entertainment, and other events.

The alley is already lined with many murals and a small park and the area around the alley is beginning to develop into its own district downtown.

“We are building a permanent flower bed that will run a good way down the alleyway, and just make it a more appealing place for local businesses to utilize and for events to be held,” Gentry said. “It will add a lot more space for outdoor dining and music events, or things like the Flower Festival.”

Gentry said businesses offer some outdoor dining along the alleyway now, but, because traffic traversed the small alleyway, it created a safety issue.

Closing the alley to vehicle traffic “will just make it safer, because I’ve been there and a car will attempt to drive through and it is just time to close it permanently,” Gentry said.

Businesses along the alley are already looking ahead to how they can benefit from the additional space.

Hopside Brewery has already added cornhole boards and other outdoor games and Gentry said Mango’s Tequila Bar is planning to make changes to the rear of its building, which could include a walk-up counter for drinks and food.

The improvements to the alleyway are only one project that will change the dynamic of downtown.

A redesign of Culligan Plaza at the corner of 2nd and Chisholm is expected to begin at some point this year, and a downtown restroom facility near the parking lot of the plaza is expected to open next year.

The city also intends to use grant money it received to construct a new restroom facility at Bay View Park not far from the bandshell.


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