City to evaluate five possible library sites

Analysis of options, including combining library with a rec center, could take as long as six months

Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2001

The list of possible sites for a new Mendenhall Valley library grew Tuesday at a Juneau Assembly work session.

Assembly members asked staff members to bring back more information about five site options for a new Mendenhall Valley library. They are Dimond Park, Vintage Business Park, the current Mendenhall Center location, Faith Lutheran Church and Goldbelt land along Mendenhall Loop Road.

The Assembly decided Oct. 1 to appropriate $430,000 to purchase 2.6 acres of land near Faith Lutheran Church for a library or other public purpose. A motion failed on Oct. 15 to reconsider the purchase. Following the meeting, Deputy City Mayor Ken Koelsch called a work session about sites for the library.

A complete analysis of the options may take between three and six months, but Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce said the city would give the Assembly an update in one month.

One option is to combine the library with a recreation center planned for Dimond Park. Pierce said traffic from families going to the rec center would be good for the library, and the two facilities could share parking and utilities. But she said the city needs to explore whether there is enough room for a library and a rec center without compromising activities or future expansion.

A Valley library was included in plans for the Dimond Park complex in 1983, but removed from the park's master plan in 1998 because of space constraints, according to the city. Because of the public process that went into the master plan, Pierce recommended that the city not discuss moving other things out of Dimond Park to make the library fit.

"It will become a bigger question than we have now," she said.

Another library option is land owned by Goldbelt between Kodzoff Acres and Cinema Drive. In a letter to Assembly members, Goldbelt suggested it would be willing to match the price for the Faith Lutheran site for 3 acres along the bike path.

Assembly member Dale Anderson said he was interested in the Dimond Park and Goldbelt options and wanted more information about expanding the library at the Mendenhall Center.

Anderson also requested a more thorough analysis of the cost to purchase and develop each site, especially at Vintage Business Park, where he said the city was comparing apples to oranges.

"I think we really need to even the playing field out," he said.

Lands Committee Chairman Marc Wheeler said his panel spent months dealing with library site options, and the Vintage Business Park site was five times the cost of the Faith Lutheran property.

The city looked at two Vintage Business Park parcels, costing $20 and $15 a square foot. The Faith Lutheran land cost $4 a square foot. Estimated site development costs for Vintage Park would be $260,000 compared with $420,000 for Faith Lutheran, according to the city.

Vintage Business Park is privately owned by C.Q. Enterprises, according to Larry Bauer, who manages the site for owner William J. Bauer. No real estate company would receive a commission on the sale, he said.

Wheeler added that the city can use the Faith Lutheran site for another purpose.

"We don't have any public recreation sites on that side of Egan except for the skateboard park. As for buying additional lands at this point, I don't think that makes sense," he said.

Money in the lands fund is needed to develop a subdivision at Lena Point, he added.

Koelsch told Assembly members the Faith Lutheran purchase wasn't up for discussion Tuesday. Later, he said the issue could return as Assembly members get more information about site options.

"I think as we work our way to find a long-term solution for the Valley library it very well could come up again," he said.

Facing financial difficulties, Faith Lutheran offered to sell the land to the city this summer. Congregation President Karl Mielke said the church is working closely with its mortgage holder and doesn't object to the city's decision to explore library site options.

"It's not the city's responsibility to solve our financial problems," he said.

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