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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Downtown revitalization groups talk transportation

Posted: September 10, 2012 - 8:41pm

Juneau Economic Development Council and stakeholder groups have decided on three main initiatives to revitalize downtown Juneau — additional housing, improved aesthetics and transit-oriented development.

JEDC hosted a question and answer meeting and lecture for Juneau’s three downtown revitalization initiative groups Monday night at the Hangar Ballroom.

The council is a facilitator, but is not promoting any one solution above another, Holst said.

“We’re promoting economic development downtown,” Holst said. “How we get there…”

The groups developed a problem statement that fewer Juneau citizens consider downtown as a primary center for living, leisure and business.

Juneau residents have expressed that downtown Juneau “is not what it could be, it doesn’t live up to the potential that many people think the downtown Juneau could have,” said Brian Holst, director of JEDC.

JEDC provided a status update of the revitalization efforts, which began in 2010. The vitality of the downtown area, the update said, is jeopardized by a lack of capital and developers and a lack of motive for property owners to sell or upgrade or existing downtown properties.

“Our vision is that Juneau borough residents will utilize the downtown area as THE primary year‐round hub for living, leisure, government and business,” according to the JEDC release.

Dave Hurley will champion the initiative to increase the mixed and residential uses downtown. Hurley’s firm, NorthWind Architects, has been a part of several Juneau projects such as the sea walk project.

James Bibb heads the group working to improve the look of the downtown area, the streetscape. The group has conducted several walk-through tours of downtown to assess aesthetics.

The group looked at the impact of art, public space, lighting, the environment of well-being, “how does it feel,” Bibb said.

The group will tackle the Willoughby district next.

Greg Fisk champions the effort to enhance downtown transit oriented development. This development could be built around a “circulator” transit system. Juneau had a circulator transit system in the early 1980s.

“It was an innovative program,” Fisk said. The transit group looked at a circulator route from Rock Dump, through downtown to the Federal Building and nearby schools.

“These are the points that we want to connect,” Fisk said.

Sticking with the transit theme, the keynote speaker of the night talked about a circulator system that is “pretty radical,” Fisk said.

The keynote speaker was Keith Jones of URS, who spoke about the possibility of an electric streetcar for use as the circulator. URS builds streetcars, among other things. The company counts as clients cities coast to coast, including El Paso, Atlanta, St. Louis, Oklahoma City and Charlotte.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com. 

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