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Big vacant buildings downtown are hard sales in Alpena

ALPENA, Mich. — The former Kmart building may soon mirror Alpena’s north industrial park. New owners have requested a zoning change to Alpena Township before renovations take shape. The vacant building will welcome new tenants, but similarly large–scale structures won’t be occupied anytime soon.

Alpena’s downtown is bustling with small businesses. The main corridor is Chisholm and Second Avenue. Make a few head turns and you’ll see zero foot traffic on one side of the street.

A major movie theatre company, AMC, bought Royal Knight Theatre, consolidated with State Theatre (which is walking distance from Royal Knight,) and put the Royal Knight building up for sale in 2018. It’s expensive and no one wants it….for now at least.

“The renovation cost is probably well over a million dollars,” said Downtown Development Authority executive director Anne Gentry.

Royal Knight is about 7,000 square feet and has been on the market for over a year now. There’s another black hole downtown. The Antique Mall shut down earlier this year. Gentry said it’s more than double the size of Royal Knight. It is 35,000 to be exact.

She said, “If you came to me and wanted to open a small business and only wanted 500 square feet, we really don’t have any spaces to put a business right now on Chisholm and Second.”

Regalo Luxury Gift celebrated its grand opening with the city on July 19. Regalo sits on Chisholm Street, directly across from Royal Knight. The gift shop is the newest small downtown business. However, demand for larger businesses is well below the current trend for mom and pops.

“You kind of have to balance do you put those resources into the building or do you put those resources into your business?” said Gentry. The latter seems to be the case. There’s no offer for either vacant building.