City, residents hash over plan for downtown parking garage

Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2008

Anyone building a garage in Juneau has to start by looking at the Marine Park parking garage, according to Engineering Department Deputy Director Rorie Watt. There, he says, is a design to avoid.

"You've got this massive bulky concrete, that mildews and grows moss," he said. "The stair tower just looks like a pit."

At a meeting Wednesday night, Watt organized to present and discuss the parking garage and transit center project, about 50 people showed up with questions and concerns about the project. Watt is the city planner in charge of the parking garage and transit center project.

In the current plan, the transit center will adjoin a 218-space garage built into Telephone Hill on the corner of Egan Drive and Main Street. The structural details are set, he said. But many design elements are still being decided and can greatly affect whether the garage comes out as an aesthetic asset or an eyesore.

"The details really do matter," he said, using parking garages in other places as examples of what to do or not to do.

For those details, Watt asked residents to comment, question and discuss.

People came with questions or concerns about traffic, elevators, greenery on the roof, and other design aspects. But the meeting also allowed residents to support or oppose the entire project.

Supporters included Chip Thoma, who has been trying to get cars off the waterfront.

"To me this is the perfect compromise," he said of the current design, built into the hillside.

Liz Dodd drew applause when she suggested scrapping the parking garage completely and concentrating on getting people to drive less.

Another resident, Joan Cahill, said the public had been duped into voting for the garage because it was packaged with several other projects.

"I think the whole premise that this was approved by the public is false," she said.

Opposition to the garage itself is a question for the Juneau Assembly, not city officials, Watt said.

Assembly member Merrill Sanford said that while it seemed that most of the people at the meeting opposed the garage, the audience didn't represent all of Juneau's many interests.

"This is only 50 out of 30,000 people," he said.

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