Shaping the waterfront's future

Residents weigh in on 20-year plan for development

Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2003

Juneau's waterfront could be studded with more shops, expanded with more cruise-ship docks or adorned with a harbor walkway, depending in part on the outcome of public hearings held this week for a new long-range waterfront plan.

"This is a community-driven process. We want big ideas to frame development," said Scott Lagueux, a consultant with Miami-based Bermello, Ajamil & Partners. Lagueux is running the meetings and will use the comments to draft a plan. "Everyone has a different value set. We are looking for the common views and themes."

The meetings began Wednesday night and are the first part of a multi-step development and review process that will culminate this fall with a plan designed to serve Juneau for the next 20 years. The Juneau Assembly will choose whether to adopt the final waterfront plan as part of the city's comprehensive plan, which sets guidelines for developers. The waterfront area stretches from the Douglas bridge to the little rock dump off Thane Road.

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A second set of meetings will be held tonight at 6:30 and 9:30 at Centennial Hall.

Wednesday night at the Aspen Hotel, a handful of residents offered their suggestions for waterfront development after a 45-minute presentation by Lagueux.

"As a guy with four kids and a wife, and a guy with a company that works in the water, I think economic development is a priority," said Jim Collins of Allen Marine Tours, which operates marine wildlife cruises.

Daniel Glidmann, of Merchant's Wharf, said he hoped any plan would relieve the congestion caused by tourists, which keeps some Mendenhall Valley residents out of the downtown area in the summer.

"There are people in the Valley who have said, 'Merchant's Wharf? I thought they tore that down,'" he said. "The tourists have polarized the use of downtown."

Downtown business owner Leeann Thomas said she was interested in better management of pedestrian and vehicle traffic. She also said she hoped new development would include restrooms and signs to help tourists orient themselves. Parking is also a problem, she said.

"How do we keep businesses in the downtown area?" she asked. "It's the number of parking spaces."

Other speakers mentioned a need for recreational spaces, covered areas and a place for cultural performances.

Bermello, Ajamil & Partners was hired to draft the new plan by the Assembly's Port Development Committee, and its contract is worth approximately $150,000. The city's current plan was developed in 1986 and has become out-of-date, according to Greg Chaney, a Juneau city planner who is overseeing the contract.

In 1986, the city didn't anticipate the growth Juneau has now, such as the construction of a cruise-ship dock at the rock dump, Chaney said. The city also may move the municipal shop, which sits on the waterfront near the Douglas bridge, freeing up land for a park or other development that needs to be planned, he said.

Bermello, Ajamil & Partners recently completed a similar waterfront project in Ketchikan.

"The central issue in Ketchikan was how to embrace the cruise-ship industry. They chose to aggressively make sure facilities are put in place to accommodate cruise business," Lagueux said. The Juneau plan is broader-based and deals with community, retail and commercial waterfront needs, he added.

Bermello, Ajamil & Partners has done waterfront planning around the world, including waterfronts in cruise destinations such as Mexico, Bermuda, Cyprus and Disney's Castaway Cay Private Cruise Island. The firm's experience with the cruise-ship industry is one of the reasons it was hired, Lagueux said.

Ideal waterfront development is built based on the public's needs and has a standardized theme and feel, he said.

"There should be public access to the water's edge, pedestrian promenades, a thread that connects (locations along the waterfront)," Lagueux said. "If this plan accomplishes anything, it will be to enhance that."

Julia O'Malley can be reached at

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