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Vintage Park would welcome new state office building

Business park owner says valley site presents minimal development issues

Posted: August 9, 2011 - 9:20pm
Greg Wagner, sales and leasing manager for Vintage Business Park, stands on land the state is considering for a new office building in Juneau.   Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Greg Wagner, sales and leasing manager for Vintage Business Park, stands on land the state is considering for a new office building in Juneau.

To build a new state office building in the Mendenhall Valley’s Vintage Park development, the developer will have to get around “strong covenants,” but they’ll find a willing seller in the owners of the Vintage Business Park.

“I think the costs are going to be pretty reasonable,” said Greg Wagner, sales and leasing manager for Vintage Business Park, one of two sites being considered for a new state office complex.

The new building, if it eventually gets approved by Gov. Sean Parnell, funded by the Legislature and built, would house employees from the current Department of Labor building, as well as the Douglas Fish and Game building and some downtown Department of Public Safety workers.

Wagner said that even though the state would have to purchase the privately-owned property, the cost of the ready-to-build Vintage Park site would almost certainly be less than the other site under consideration.

The downtown site is atop an aging parking garage, which would have to be demolished and rebuilt. The Valley site would have surface parking, on a variety of now-vacant lots.

Wagner said the Vintage Park site has many attributes that would make it a good state office location, though he said he understood the competing desire to keep state government offices centrally located downtown as well.

Several smaller state offices are already located in Vintage Park, he said. Those include the Alaska Commission on Post Secondary Education, along with some economic development, children’s services and other state offices.

A state consultant, architect Brian Meissner of ECI/Hyer Architects, outlined a number of concerns with the Vintage Park site in a public meeting recently, but said none appeared to make the location impossible.

The biggest, he said, may be some “strong covenants” attached to the property. The Carrs/Safeway site in Vintage Park next to the proposed location needed waivers of the covenants to be developed, he said.

Vern Jones, the state’s chief procurement officer, said the covenants the state is now reviewing are linked to the city’s zoning code, which has the potential for additional complications.

“To break any of those covenants, we’d also need to get changes to the zoning through the city,” he said.

Meissner said that was done for Carrs/Safeway.

Wagner said he doubted any of those concerns would be much of an impediment to the state’s plans.

“I don’t know that there was anything that held Carrs up,” he said, though he acknowledged that it had been before his time with Vintage Park.

And while nearby property is subject to the new, and controversial flood plain maps recently made public by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Vintage Park site is not, Wagner said.

“According to those, we’re not in the 100-year flood plain,” he said.

Wagner said he doubted there would be any river erosion issues, another concern mentioned by the consultant. He pointed out the site being considered, next to Carrs/Safeway, if some distance from the Mendenhall River.

The site is already zoned for commercial activity, said Heather Marlow, city lands and resources manager.

It would likely need additional traffic analysis, but she doubted there would be difficulty meeting any requirements

Wagner agreed that any additional requirements would be minimal in a site already designed for high traffic.

“We handle a fair amount of traffic here right now,” he said.

Wagner said he expected the site selection would likely come down to which location the officials making the determination felt would be most efficient and cost effective.

One added benefit: GCI is laying fiber-optic cable through Vintage Park.

“That opens up huge bandwidth for all kinds of uses,” he said.

Vintage Park was originally developed in 1982 out of mostly lightly-forested land. BBS Enterprises, and related limited liability companies own it, with William Bauer the principal owner of those companies

Jones said he expects a state committee reviewing the sites to come to a preliminary decision this month.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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