ALPENA -In a little more than a month, the Michigan State University design team will return to Alpena with the final design plan for a project that began early this year. The team put together a public "wish list" for what it would feature and what residents would like to be included in a community plaza that could be constructed in the city's parking lot behind the Owl Cafe downtown.
The team of designers held an update meeting on April 17, where plans that are nearly complete were unveiled. In order to include many residents in the process, the parties involved have decided to hold a public comment period where people can express more ideas, as well as voice concerns.
Downtown Development Director Lesslee Dort said there were more than 100 people who showed up to see the updated plans. She said the deadline for public comment is May 10 and after that the design team will make subtle changes to the design and return to Alpena to present it. Dort said the reaction to the latest set of designs was positive for the most part.
"I think a majority of the audience was impressed about what could be there," Dort said. "They certainly still had some concerns about functioning of that particular space because there are businesses on two sides of it and there are concern about things like deliveries. I think that is phenomenal, because we are starting to get into the logistics of how the businesses will be run."
Dort said the public comment period allows people another chance to voice concerns. She said once the comments are submitted and the deadline passes all of the comments will be forwarded to the design team so it can use them to determine what additions or subtractions to the plaza design need to be made. As in the past, Dort said this is a community project and the more input it gets from residents, the better the design will be and the fewer the problems will be down the road.
"We want insight from the community. I'm of the mind, and I'm sure other people in Alpena are also, that I don't always come up with all of my thoughts on the spot. Sometimes you need a minute to digest the information, so take the time. You have until May 10 to get your comments in and then the group will come back in the end of June with the final plaza design," Dort said.
In the newest set of plans there are features that will make it attractive for users throughout the year. Dort said she likes everything in the plan, but there were a pair of features that stood out above the rest in her mind.
"I'm a big fan of the splash park that turnd into an ice rink in the winter and of the community fireplace," Dort said. "I think the economic potential from those is pretty significant. It is not going to be the same type of skating like at the Northern Light Arena, because it will be on a much smaller scale. I think there are a lot of businesses that would benefit from something like that."
Tim LaFleche of GT Sounds and Star Entertainment filmed the plaza event and it should be available online on the city's website or on the Plaza Palooza Facebook page. Dort said that way people who couldn't make it to the meeting can listen to the discussion, as well as see the latest design plans. There has been no official date set for the design teams' June return.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.