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Docks and Harbors board approves Maritime Center design

No funding, board acknowledges, but votes cast to show support

Posted: July 29, 2012 - 12:07am

A design for the Juneau Maritime Center, a proposed three-story building that would house the port director’s office, as well as public space with interpretive displays, won the approval of the Docks and Harbors board Thursday night – but the center has a long way to go before it can be built.

Port Engineer Gary Gillette gave a presentation to board members on options for the Maritime Center, concluding that “Option E” is the preferred plan for Docks and Harbors and its partners, which include the Parks and Recreation Advisory Council and the Whale Committee.

“We took all of those ideas and the comments that we heard and we kind of put this together as a preferred idea,” said Gillette, displaying Option E on the projector screen.

The proposed center, the planning-level project cost estimate for which is listed at $4 million in a document prepared this May by NorthWind Architects, LLC, would be sited alongside the Juneau-Douglas Bridge, just west of downtown.

The bridge would actually pass over two of the center’s parking lots and a strip of public park land that would separate the proposed Marine Services Building from the waterfront. A short boardwalk and “viewing node” overhanging the shore would run roughly parallel to the bridge.

“This scheme places the building perpendicular to the bridge and on axis with West 9th Street, allowing for the street hardscape to essentially flow through the lobby area and connect with the terminating dock node on the water’s edge,” the Option E description from NorthWind’s document read in part. “This has the strongest connection to the park site; it has the best park to building integration.”

Gillette said the center would “provide a vibrant and aesthetic improvement to this site at the end of the bridge,” and suggested that the around-the-clock presence of the Marine Exchange of Alaska, a proposed tenant for the building’s third floor, could deter “undesirable activities” in the area.

But while the current design phase was green-lit by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly, said board member Michael Williams, the project lacks a crucial component.

“We have no funds to build the building yet,” said Williams, who acted as chairman at the meeting in regular chairman Kevin Jardell’s absence. “We have plans that we’d like to, but we are not there yet. We don’t have any money in a piggy bank or anything like that. … But some time in the future, maybe after we’re long and gone, (the) Docks and Harbors board might have a viable building out there that they can use.”

Port Director Carl Uchytil described the project, in its current phase, as “kind of putting stakes in the ground for what Docks and Harbors needs down here.”

The board members unanimously adopted a motion by Eric Kueffner backing the design.

“I’d move that we suggest that the engineers go ahead with this program,” said Kueffner. “I think we just want to send our vote of support. There’s nothing else we can do on this except say this looks like the direction we want.”

Uchytil outlined the process going forward for the proposal, saying Gillette will report the board’s conclusions to PRAC, which would likely report it to the Assembly Lands Committee, which could then in turn submit it for consideration before the full Assembly.

“I think things will move along quicker with the coming election,” Uchytil predicted. “I think the Assembly members want to get this moved through.”

Williams had the last word on the issue.

“I’d just like to add – we were given direction, and we did what we were told to do,” Williams said. “And I think it turned out nice. And working with the other organizations – PRAC, the Assembly and also the Whale Committee – and options there, and ideas, at least fueled cooperative exchange.”

Williams stood down as vice chairman of the board during officer elections at Thursday’s meeting. He recommended Greg Busch succeed to the position, a nomination unanimously approved by the board.

All other board officers were reelected without objection, including the absent Jardell.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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