Slated visitor center to offer more space

New downtown building and deck estimated to cost about $4 million

Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2003

A new visitors' center planned for downtown Juneau will provide more space for the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as office space for the city port director and U.S. Customs.

Juneau Port Director John Stone said a conceptual design for the center should be completed within two months. The city recently received a federal grant of $150,000 that Stone said would go toward the detailed design of the building.

Plans call for the demolition of the current visitors' center, a metal building by the Mount Roberts Tram terminal, and the construction of a deck to fill the gap between the bus parking lot and the cruise ship dock. The new center could then be set back further from the street, Stone said.

The city has been working on the plan for about a year, but funding has yet to be approved. Rough estimates put the building and deck construction at $4 million, Stone said.

"The building that we have is very old, and it wasn't designed for the purpose it's being used for, that is, to have several hundred thousand cruise ship passengers go through it. It's not functionally set up to meet that purpose," Stone said.

The building used to be a ferry terminal for the Alaska Marine Highway System. Lorene Palmer, president and CEO of the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the building is too small.

"It's a matter of square footage. (The new building) would give more space for showcasing Juneau, by having display space for photographs and maps and brochures for businesses that want to make themselves available to that market," Palmer said.

JCVB volunteers provide information to visitors on local attractions, restaurants and shopping and answer questions about Alaska.

"It is one of the first points of contact for cruise ship passengers when they disembark. The benefit of having a good service and a good environment is that people who are educated in a destination tend to get involved more in the experience," Palmer said.

That includes spending more money in town, she said.

Masha Herbst can be reached at masha.herbst@juneauempire.com.



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