My turn: Put the capitol in the Valley

Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Last month's pictures in the Juneau Empire of the four finalist's designs for a new capitol may have given more people heartburn than it has public comment, at least here in Juneau. I consider myself to be one of the "silent majority" and not prone to making public comment. However, if this project is to succeed at any time in the future, I have concerns about an appropriate site being selected for the state of Alaska's new capitol.

I believe the illustration from Thom Mayne of Morphosis, winner of the design contest, was presented with honesty, that of displaying how it would look in conjunction with the rest of the already congested Juneau downtown area. Why is this happening?

Last November I met with Mayor Botelho concerning this site, and pointed out where I perceived to be a "natural" for this structure, that of the hills just northwest of the Brotherhood Bridge. The majority of this land is owned by city, with two smaller parcels just west of the Mendenhall River and city property, by the University of Alaska. At Mayor Bothelho's request I attended the next Capitol Planning Committee meeting to relate my concern. I asked them what other sites were considered for this project. I was told no other sites were considered. (Apparently the site was selected because of the city/state purchase of the Telephone Hill property in the early 1980s, as a possible deterrent to the capital move issue as land for a proposed capitol site.)

In the early 1980s, for the most part the visitor industry was in its infancy with little other than tourist-oriented stores, the Juneau Ice Field and salmon bakes predominating that growing market. Those of us living here know what has happened to the downtown area and the needs for this ever-growing industry. I believe the Telephone Hill site would be more appropriately designated for a large hotel complex-convention center or addressing Juneau's need for a performing arts center, not to forget parking.

This is to be Alaska's capitol. Everyone in the state should be proud of the capitol's location and beauty. Legislators and Juneau residents and visitors, please drive out to the turnout just west of the Brotherhood Bridge and see what a magnificent location this will be for Alaska's capitol. We take for granted the view of the Mendenhall Towers and glacier when we fly into Juneau's airport. What an outstanding site for the most awe-inspiring capitol in the United States. (Not to mention that this site is less than two miles from Juneau's airport and four miles from the Southeast Alaska ferry system.)

• Peggie Ward is a Juneau resident and former state worker.

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