Guest post: Aux Op Alpena, Not Just Another Pretty Façade

>Story and photo by Public Affairs Specialist Third Class Brandon Blackwell

The small, single-story brick building on the corner of Park Place and 1st Avenue is unassuming. Four large, red-trimmed windows sandwich a small, arched doorway. The door’s crimson color stands out against the aged brick. Cement flower beds rise out of the ground and host a welcoming array of flowers.

No one could guess that on this quiet street, in the quaint town of Alpena, Mich., the building is the new auxiliary-operated U.S. Coast Guard station.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was held May 27, to celebrate the new station, but the story isn’t so much the opening of the station, but the structure itself.

Constructed in 1922, the building was the third Buick car dealership in America. After its run as one of America’s early car dealerships, the building had been used for various businesses until 2003, when it became vacant—but not for long.

Jeff Konczak, owner of Alpena Marc, a real estate development company, purchased the property soon after. He could have demolished the structure and built any number of new facilities, but Konczak isn’t inspired by green—money that is.

“It’s not really as interesting to demolish and rebuild,” said Konczak. “I’m from Alpena, so this building has sentimental value.”

Before the building became Station Alpena, it was meticulously renovated under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, run by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

LEED is an internationally recognized certification system that measures how well a building or community performs in energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions-reduction, improved indoor environmental quality and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts, according to its official website.

The program provides building owners and operators a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

The measures taken to make Station Alpena green are numerous, but they are well-hidden within this charming building.

Countertops, carpets and flooring are made from recycled materials. Eco-friendly paint is used to color the walls. Energy-efficient electrical fixtures and appliances cut down on energy consumption.

“We aren’t required to do this,” said Konczak. “We worked through the LEED program because it’s the right thing to do.”

(Left: The crew of Auxiliary operated Station Alpena show off their new home at the ribbon cutting ceremony in Alpena, Mich., May 27, 2009. USCG Photo by PA3 Brandon Blackwell)

“We love this new station,” said Chief Petty Officer Richard Houchin, Officer-in-Charge of Station Alpena. “There is much more room here and everything about it is much more comfortable. The old station was a small space in the Federal Building across the street.”

Gone are the days of a drab, cramped station for the Alpena crew. Their new home is spacious and comes with a personal touch. “Alpena Marc wants to make sure the Coast Guard never has a reason to move out of this building,” said Konczak. “We use high-quality materials, do great work and try to make this building less like a traditional Coast Guard station and more like a home.”

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