Residents hash out subport ideas

Planners search for magnets to draw people to waterfront

Posted: Wednesday, February 06, 2002

Juneau residents shuffled and reshuffled buildings, parks and walkways on paper Tuesday, helping design a waterfront for the future.

About 70 people took part in a discussion at Centennial Hall about Juneau's subport and the surrounding waterfront. The state, city and area landholders are partners in a redevelopment project for the area.

Architect Paul Voelckers described planned elements as a "string of pearls" to draw people to the waterfront.

"We're trying to strike a balance between the density that makes it economic and maintain a balance between built-up and open space," he said. "We hope this project will knit this area together better."

Plans could include a pedestrian underpass, seawalk extension, parking garages, marina, housing, transit center, retail and commercial space, parks, plazas, a waterfront restaurant, visitors center and performing arts space.

The project covers an area from the mouth of Gold Creek to the Goldbelt Hotel.

The Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office is a driving force behind the work. Senior Resource Manager Alison Smith said the trust hopes to boost revenue from about 11 acres of land it owns in the area. Proceeds benefit mental health services.

"We would like to get more use and certainly more revenues," she said. "Participating in this cooperative planning effort is going to be good for the trust and the community over the long term."

During discussions, Juneau residents wrote down ideas on large maps. The existing subport structure should be saved but converted, housing could be better integrated and a movie theater would be a draw, they suggested.

Daniel Glidmann, manager of Merchants Wharf downtown, took part in a discussion about dock and moorage opportunities. Some of the talk focused on an idea to move the intermediate vessel float, which is near Taku Smokeries, to another place downtown.

"Everyone is kind of agreed it has to move, and there's a feeling-out process of where the best place is," he said. "The fishermen need to have access to it. ... At the same time, we need to have space for small day (boats)."

Glidmann said the subport redevelopment plan has merit.

"I think it needs a lot of work, but it's something that will come in time. It's not something to be rushed through," he said.

Ed Ferrell stopped by the meeting because he owns a condo in the neighborhood. Development could block his waterfront view, but changes may be 15 years down the road, he said.

"I think the plans are good. I like the covered walkway. It's always raining," he said. "I like the concept of revitalizing the city and the integration of commercial businesses and residences."

Goldbelt Executive Vice President David Goade said Juneau's urban native corporation supports an effort to increase activity in the subport area. The corporation owns the Goldbelt Hotel and the Seadrome property, which fall under the plan.

"The area is not at its highest and best use right now," he said. "I think it's very realistic. When you have a sound plan that's well-thought out and well-planned with support, it's easier in the future."

Planners don't want to build up one part of downtown at the expense of another, consultant Barbara Sheinberg said. Walkways and retail links will be important, she said.

"What you have to say is we're going to expand the pie for everyone. Over time, the population and the economy will support the whole area being vibrant," she said. "But you have to keep those linkages."

The consulting firm Sheinberg Associates is accepting written comments on the subport plan for the next month. The document will be given to the Juneau Planning Commission and Assembly this summer, Sheinberg said.

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