Juneau plans more parking, sports field for downtown schools

City, district officials OK conceptual design

Posted: Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The city is moving forward with plans for more parking and a high school sports field at the downtown Juneau schools complex.

On Tuesday, city and Juneau School District officials planning high school construction and renovation projects approved a conceptual design for the area. The next stage is design development, which includes cost estimates.

The project stretches from the district's central office on 12th Street to Juneau-Douglas High School, and it includes Harborview Elementary, the Marie Drake building and the Augustus Brown swimming pool.

The project includes a 155-by-300-foot playing field between the swimming pool and Marie Drake. The field's surface hasn't been determined yet.

It will add as many as 54 parking spaces from JDHS to the district's central office. It also will create separate, small drop-off areas for Harborview and Marie Drake.

But to do it, the construction would take space from the elementary school's play area and clear a dense grove of spruces at the corner of the Marie Drake building and the Harborview parking lot.

Jetta Whittaker, a member of the Harborview site council, said she has heard from residents who don't want to see the spruce trees felled. There could be major community resistance to that, she said.

"There's so little green living things on the Harborview playground," she said. "It's basically a dirt place. (The grove) is a gift that we shouldn't cut down lightly. It takes another 50 years to grow."

The portion of F Street next to Harborview would be vacated. A short elbow between the central office and the Harborview parking lot, it connects Glacier Avenue and 12th Street.

That eliminates the ability of motorists to zip through the Harborview area to avoid the intersection at 12th Street and Glacier Avenue, said Gary Gillette, a project architect in the city Engineering Department.

But the project would allow two-way traffic between 12th Street and the Harborview parking lot.

Gillette said the playground in front of Harborview will be reconfigured but will retain its current equipment, including the basketball court.

Whittaker said she worries about the new two-way traffic from 12th Street into the Harborview parking lot. Children aren't used to looking both ways when they emerge from school, she said.

"The area's incredibly congested. Putting two-way traffic in an area that's already a tight squeeze - I don't see it happening safely."

The Harborview site council will discuss the plan Monday, she said.

Minch Ritter Voelckers Architects and subcontractor R&M Engineering, both of Juneau, hold a roughly $25,000 design contract, Gillette said. That doesn't include construction drawings.

The project's costs aren't known yet. The whole design and construction from at least the playing field to JDHS probably can be paid from bonds approved in 2003 to further renovate JDHS, Gillette said.

The state will reimburse 70 percent of the bond costs. It's not clear yet whether the state Department of Education will allow bonds intended for the high school to be used at Harborview and the central office, Gillette said.

• Eric Fry can be reached at eric.fry@juneauempire.com.

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