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Making a hopeful forecast

The last month has been full of exciting announcements and headlines about downtown Alpena.

The Style Wherehouse opened in their new location where Masters’ Shoes was previously located. Glik’s announced they would be opening in their new, renovated location in Harborside Mall in early summer. The Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library is in the process of a nearly $4 million renovation planned to be completed by late summer. Both movie theaters, the Royal Knight and the historic State Theater, are also being renovated, as well as the Vaughn (the previous Antique Mall) across the street on 2nd Avenue.

A drive through the rest of our community shows that that growth isn’t just happening in the downtown: the renovation at Alpena Community College’s Van Lare Hall, the construction of the new patient tower at the hospital, the completion of the new terminal at the Alpena County Regional Airport, the purchase of the mall by I2P, the plans for a new Boys and Girls Club.

Outside eyes are on Alpena too, as it was announced that developers are hoping to construct both an Aldi and Marshalls on M-32.

Development never happens overnight. Preparing site plans, securing financing, working through a grant process, purchasing property, filing for permits — it is no simple feat to even get to the point where ground can be broken or construction can start.

And, before that, eyes must be on that community to even consider beginning that process and seeing if the numbers make sense. That could happen by attending a festival or event and thinking, “What a cool community this is.” It could be seeing other businesses opening and developments happening and thinking, “I want to be a part of that.” It could be a conversation and being convinced that now the time is right.

All of that groundwork — the work of placemaking, of making a place attractive to visit, to invest in, to live, of inspiring meaningful connections between a person and a place — also doesn’t happen overnight. The work of placemaking is done often without seeing the full results of the work being done, never knowing which stories or projects might resonate with someone out there waiting for the right time to take that leap.

All of those developments have me extremely hopeful for all that is to come in both our downtown and the Alpena area as a whole.

After a year that has been filled with uncertainty, it is promising to see many businesses, organizations, and individuals taking that leap: expanding their operations, renovating a building, opening a new venture.

As a community, Alpena has a lot of assets that make it an attractive place to live and invest in. We’re located on the lake and near wonderful trail systems. We have a historic, vibrant downtown filled with shops, restaurants, galleries, theaters, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-designated marine sanctuary, offices, and nonprofits. We’re home to an airport, a community college, and a hospital.

Alpena has a lot to be proud of — and those new developments and investments have the power to transform the direction our community goes.

For us lucky enough to call Alpena home, the forecast looks good.

Anne Gentry graduated from Brown University with a degree in comparative literature and has studied in Italy and South Australia. She is currently executive director of the Alpena Downtown Development Authority.

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