Chamber forms new group to solve downtown problems

Improving parking is at the top of priority list; other issues include traffic, loitering and roads

Posted: Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The Juneau Chamber of Commerce has formed a new committee that is prepared to seek more parking for downtown.

The Downtown Business Committee was created to increase downtown chamber membership, better support chamber members and provide advocacy on issues such as parking, traffic flow, loitering, road construction and panhandling, Chairman Chuck Collins said. The committee would make recommendations to the chamber board that would then make proposals to the Juneau Assembly.

"I believe making Juneau a better place to be in business makes it a better place to be, and that's important to me," said Collins, who owns Copy Express on Seward Street.

The city has downtown parking lots on which parking structures could be built to accommodate more vehicles, Collins said. Among the parking areas the committee would review are those at the corners of Second and Main streets, along with those on Franklin and Third, and Franklin and Fourth streets.

"At some point in our life, we need to decide whether we're going to invest in downtown," Collins said.

Juneau has reached the point where use of the city bus system is saturated, he said.

David Summers, owner of Alaska Knifeworks on South Franklin Street, said the committee plans to investigate all viable avenues to improve parking, including building, relocating properties or trading real estate. The committee would get a list of possible available downtown parking areas that are not being used, he said.

"People have chosen to do business elsewhere or through a different means because of anticipating (parking) hassles," said Summers, also chamber board president-elect.

Many small business owners do not have the time to advocate for downtown-related issues on their own behalf. The committee will fill that gap, Summers said.

The creation of the committee may also spur more membership if downtown business owners know a committee exists to work on their behalf, he said.

The chamber does not have a committee geared toward business owners in the Mendenhall Valley, Executive Director Chris Wyatt said. The chamber has several active members in the Valley who report any concerns to its 15-member board, she said.

"Because we have so many smaller businesses in the downtown area, they have issues that are different because of the growing tourism industry," Wyatt said.

The committee will not conflict with the Downtown Business Association because it is geared toward chamber members, Summers said. Incoming DBA President Pam Brewer is on the new committee. Other committee members have yet to be named, Collins said.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.



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