The visitors center in downtown's Davis Log Cabin has moved to a new location after 15 years on Seward Street, prompting some nearby merchants to wonder whether they will lose business next season.
The center has relocated to a space at Centennial Hall vacated by the U.S. Forest Service in April, said John Mazor, president of the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, which runs the center plus two others downtown.
Mazor said the move will put the JCVB in closer contact with people who use the hall for conventions. However, some business owners worry loss of the center on Seward could mean fewer visitors will gravitate to the north end of town, an area that has faced stiffer competition for tourists as the south end has grown.
"I think that's going to hurt," said Manuel Hernandez, who owns the nearby Alaska International Fur Co. "They bring tourists up here."
"I'm sure it will have an impact on our business," said Dawn Register, owner of Juneau Drug on Seward.
Approximately 32,000 people visited the log cabin in 2002, according to records kept by the JCVB. But the cabin was not the only reason tourists walked up the hill, said Carol Scafturon, director of visitor information for the center. The Capitol, Juneau Douglas City Museum and Russian Orthodox church are tourist magnets and will continue to draw visitors up Seward Street, she said.
"There are a lot of incentives to head up the hill," said Scafturon, who is setting up the center at its new location this week.
The loss of the visitors center did not concern Jim Dillon, owner of Hi-Tech on Seward. Dillon said many businesses in his area depend more on sales to cruise ship crew, not passengers, and noted it doesn't make sense to have a visitors center so far from the waterfront.
"There's not a whole lot of point in continuing to man that crumbling edifice that termite-infested, rotted, oil-soaked pile of logs," said Dillon, laughing.
The log cabin is rotting, and the poor condition of the building was one of the reasons the JCVB moved the visitors center, Scafturon said. The cabin was built in 1980 by University of Alaska students using spruce logs cut near Echo Cove. It has been decaying ever since.
"When the log cabin was built, the proper sealant wasn't put on it," said Kim Kiefer, director of Juneau's Parks and Recreation Department. "It has been going downhill for a number of years."
Scafturon said the cabin had other problems, too.
"We haven't had public telephones or public restrooms. We haven't had any parking, and wheelchair accessibility has really been limited," she said.
Under an agreement with the city, the JCVB used the cabin free of rent but paid the utilities. The JCVB will pay rent for the space at Centennial Hall, but the private nonprofit group got a cheaper rate than the former tenant, said Dale Tennison, manager of the city-owned convention center.
The Forest Service paid $44,800 a year for the 2,256-square-foot space now occupied by the JCVB, which will pay $42,636 for rent in 2002, Tennison said.
It is unclear what will become of the cabin, a replica of a log structure once used as a church. The city plans to inspect the logs this week and estimate the cost of fixing the building, which is owned by the city but sits on state land.
"One concern we need to look at is how structurally sound is it," said Kiefer of the CBJ. "That will help us determine what kind of uses it can have for the future."
Kathy Dye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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