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Committee offers ideas to boost downtown business

Recommendations include tearing down cabin for green space, creating new parking

Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Covered sidewalks, green space and valet parking for legislators are on a list of city recommendations to revitalize downtown Juneau and improve the area around the Capitol. One building could be torn down, while another could be converted to parking.

A new city Downtown Revitalization Committee gave Juneau Assembly members a list of six short-term recommendations Monday. The idea is to improve the downtown area for residents, businesses, government users and visitors, said Chairman Ralph Kibby, a former Assembly member.

"If you look at all the past studies ... downtown should remain a civic, cultural and economic engine of the community," he said.

The committee suggests the city:

• Acquire the JAMHI building on North Franklin and Second streets to be used as a parking garage, retail space and offices. The Juneau Alliance for Mental Health Inc. is leasing space from the city at Salmon Creek. The city could look into a trade, City Manager Dave Palmer suggested.

"The values are close enough that it would be worth a discussion," he said. "We know the concept is possible."

• Tear down the now-vacant and rotting Davis Log Cabin and turn the area into green space. The Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau moved out of the building last year.

• Provide valet parking for legislators during the legislative session. More cars could fit into the Terry Miller Legislative Complex, the Marine Park Garage and other areas if cars are stacked closer together, committee members said. In addition, valet parking could save time for legislators, they found.

 

• Turn small pockets of space used during the summer into parking during the winter.

• Upgrade streets and install covered sidewalks and passages.

In a separate recommendation, the committee suggested the city acquire the pocket park on Calhoun Avenue near the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.

Palmer, Kibby, former Native corporation executive Carlton Smith, power company owner Bill Corbus, Assembly member Jeannie Johnson and planning consultant Barb Sheinberg are on the Downtown Revitalization Committee. They looked at an area from Front to Sixth streets and from Telephone Hill to Gold Street.

As part of the effort, the city is sending letters to downtown business owners to see what impediments might be in the way of plans to build or rebuild, Kibby said.

Deputy Mayor Ken Koelsch said valet parking could be looked at as a security issue. Someone who kept an eye on what cars were coming and going would make the Capitol safer, he said.

Pam Varni, executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency, said she likes the idea of adding another parking facility downtown.

Legislators currently have assigned parking spaces in lots near the Capitol. In general, parking is in short supply during the legislative session, she said.

"The city has been very kind in giving us 34 spots near Bullwinkle's. The legislative staff appreciate the extra parking," she said. "The city also is kind enough to give each legislator a permit for their dashboards so they don't have to observe one hour parking."

If valet parking is considered, Varni said the state would need to be careful it wasn't violating fire codes by parking cars too close together.

The committee plans to wrap up work and report back to the Assembly in the next three to four months, Kibby said.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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