Invest in downtown Alpena expansion

This article is driven by two thoughts: First, tripping over a dollar to save a dime is not wise. Second, we would not accomplish much if we had to do everything by ourselves.

Although I was not surprised by the decision of the Alpena County Board of Commissioners to not support the Alpena Downtown Development Authority expansion proposal, I was disappointed.

If you have spent any time in downtown Alpena in the last several years, you would know it as a vibrant place with plenty of beauty, many recent renovations and additions, many activities and entertainment opportunities, and, especially in the summer, people wandering everywhere. For many, that is a sign of good things for a community.

Chronic complainers aside, most of us would probably agree that downtown Alpena is healthy and a great place for locals and visitors to spend time, and that a vibrant downtown is a good indicator of the overall economic health of a community.

Downtown Alpena would not be what you see it as today without the Downtown Development Authority.

Wouldn’t it make sense to expand something that is working so it can work for other areas, as well?

My guess is that Alpena County will not be investing dollars into the proposed expansion area that would result in similar success to what the Downtown Development Authority has proven capable of achieving. If the county did prove me wrong and commit to investing the same dollars that would go toward the new downtown district, but on their own, they wouldn’t be able to accomplish nearly what the DDA would be able to do for that same area.

There is power in combining dollars and effort.

The mission of the DDA — and it’s a mission they have been successful at achieving — is to:

* correct and prevent deterioration within the established DDA district,

* to encourage historic preservation,

* to acquire (buy) and dispose of (sell) interests in real and personal property,

* to create and implement development plans in the district, and

* to promote the economic growth of the district.

That is a list of items I want more of.

Don’t you?

Over 30 years, the county would “give up” just over $500,000 in revenue. But they would gain tremendous more value. What is the county giving up by not doing that and by not realizing the increase in taxable value that would come with an expansion and successful improvements because of the expansion?

Here is an assignment for you: Pretend you are new to Alpena. Grab a map from the DDA of the current DDA boundaries and of the proposed expansion area. Take a walk or drive first through the current DDA boundaries. View it as if you are seeing it for the first time. Notice the beauty, the activity, the opportunities for enjoyment.

Then, still with the eyes of a newcomer, take a walk or drive through the proposed expansion areas. Notice the difference between the two. There are some very proud business owners who have done a tremendous job making improvements and keeping their businesses looking great, but notice the lack of cohesiveness and the spaces that aren’t currently as loved.

With your visitor/newcomer mind, decide where you want to spend the time you have in Alpena. In the current downtown, or in what is currently the proposed expansion area? Most people will feel the draw of the downtown.

The DDA has made a difference within their boundaries. There is a visible difference and a noticeably different feel. Both the current district and the new addition would benefit from the expansion for a relatively low dollar amount, but do you know who would benefit the most? All the residents of the Alpena area. Even you, complainers!

Don’t trip over the dollar to save a dime. Don’t underestimate the value of partnerships.

No one I know likes taxes, but I think most of us can agree they are necessary for some progress and services.

For the economic health of the entire community, this is one of those proposals that would truly get us the best results for our tax bucks.


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