My turn: Facts, not rumors, about keeping Merchants Wharf

Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2005

The owners of the Merchants Wharf approached the city manager and Waterfront Planning Committee about the possibility of selling all or a portion of the Merchants Wharf site to the city. An independent appraisal has been delivered to the Waterfront Committee and is now a matter of public record. Price for all or a portion of the property has not been discussed.

No one in the city ever asked the owners if they were interested in selling. I, as building manager, suggested to the Waterfront Committee that they may want to think about the future of the site and how it may fit in the city's long-range plan. I explained to the planners that the wharf had a limited future.

Every tenant in the facility has known this for quite some time. Several tenants have recently moved in with the understanding that the building has a limited future.

The owners have made it public that they will close the building sometime near the end of 2008, and possibly sooner. Why? The cost of maintenance and operations, given the age and condition of the building. Period. No hidden agenda.

The owners are now evaluating the possibility of building a smaller facility on a portion of the property.

Yes, tenants will be displaced.

To those of you who want to "Save the Wharf," I would suggest you direct your energies toward purchasing the facility. The owners are open to discussing this option with any serious buyer or group.

I have managed this facility for nearly 19 years. In that time, the cost of maintenance and operations has been well over $6 million. This money has come from rent and cash infusions from the owners. The total amount of money paid to the owners from "profits" for that same time period has been less than $225,000. There are four owners. You do the math.

As the building and parking area continue to age, the cost of maintenance will rise dramatically. These costs, in addition to fuel-cost increases and rent increases, will be passed through to the tenants, and in all likelihood several of our tenants will not be able to continue operating.

Merchants Wharf is a business. The present facility cannot and will not continue to operate the way it has in the past.

The owners of this nearly 2.5-acre property are trying to take a proactive long-term look down the road. Providing permanent access to the waterfront for our local population by expanding Marine Park and building a seaside walk is not wasteful or fanciful. On the contrary, the seaside walk has overwhelming support from the community.

On expanding Marine Park, answer this question:

If Merchants Wharf was closed permanently, should the city buy the property at fair market value to provide permanent access to our waterfront?

Planning for the future of this site, whatever it may be, is our focus.

The option that everyone would like to avoid is to have Merchants Wharf boarded up, surrounded by a chain-link fence and closed to the public, waiting for condemnation.

These are the facts. To those writing letters and opinions, please try to stick to the facts.

• Juneau resident Daniel Glidmann is the building manager of Merchants Wharf.

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