A new condominium complex is coming to the East Mendenhall Valley, a development supporters say will help ease Juneau’s pressing affordable housing shortage.
The City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission unanimously approved a motion Tuesday night that allows Constellation Development LCC to build a 36-unit multi-family condominium complex on Bresee Street off Mendenhall Loop Road.
“It’s great,” Constellation Development’s Travis Arndt said in an interview after the motion by Commissioner Dan Miller was approved. “It’s a big step — a step in the right direction — we’ll get some good housing for Juneau people here coming up quickly.”
The planned complex, which includes six three-story modular condo units and on-site parking spaces, will be situated on a 2.4-acre vacant lot between Lakeside Condos and the Juneau Church of the Nazarene, according to the proposal. It’s near Glacier Valley Elementary School.
“We want to do a really nice development with really nice units that are reasonably priced, and I believe the area we’re looking to build is about perfect for it,” Arndt told the commissioners during the meeting. “The next-door neighbors are condos, across the street are apartments, we’re close to the school, the bus line runs in the area.”
“There’s definitely a demand for it,” he added of the housing market.
Commissioners approved the development over objections from Bresee Street residents about traffic congestion and environmental concerns since two of the six condos will partially be located in the wetlands.
Kevin Millay, a resident of Bresee Street since the 1978, said he’d love to see the neighborhood be developed, but he’s worried about where all the new residents will park their personal and recreational vehicles.
Parking’s already tight, he said, plus the street is narrow and sees a lot of through traffic for drivers avoiding speed bumps on adjoining roads. An additional 36 to 76 cars “is a huge load” that the neighborhood cannot withstand, he said to the murmured agreement of others in the public seating.
A recent birder, Alexi Kiefer, said she agrees Juneau should have more housing, but she’s concerned that the complex is being partially built on the Mendenhall Wetlands. The area where the condos are going up is a known location where red-winged blackbirds breed, she said.
As a condition of approval, the commissioners required Arndt to obtain proper grading and drainage permits in order to place fill on that area.
Kiefer also noted that as a stay-at-home mom, she’s worried the children at the complex will not have a place to play, which could lead to safety issues. That sentiment was especially acknowledged by Commissioner Gordon Jackson, although he ended up agreeing to the proposal.
In the end, all of the concerns raised were trumped by the commissioners concern for Juneau’s housing shortage.
Commissioners noted that the Juneau Police Department did not raise an objection to the added traffic in the area or any related safety concerns. The project was also reviewed by the Mendenhall Wetlands Committee, which aims to protect the refuge and the wildlife in it, the commissioners noted.
The fact that one acre of the 2.4 acres on the lot is actually “unbuildable” due to wetlands endeared Commissioner Miller to the fact that a company is still willing to build there. Miller noted that land in Juneau is generally difficult to develop, which contributes to the housing shortage.
“I think it’s a good project,” he said. “I support it.”
Arndt said construction may begin as soon as he gets the building permit, which could be as soon as the next few days. He says he hopes it will be complete in a year or two.
“We’re ready to start,” he said.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.