Officials eye covered walkways for downtown

Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2003

The city Community Development Department is working on a project to build canopies downtown to protect pedestrians from rain and snow and to improve aesthetics.

Downtown receives an average of 91 inches of rain per year, and Juneau has 222 rainy days per year, according to a city study.

The Downtown Juneau Canopy Study comes as city engineers are looking at widening the South Franklin Street area to alleviate congestion. A wider pedestrian area better supports the need for canopies because of Juneau's inclement weather, city planner Chris Beanes said.

Beanes is spearheading the study, which requires him to write an amendment to the city code that would allow canopies outside of the historic district, he said. The current city code restricts canopies to the historic district.

Beanes plans to hold an open house on the canopy study in the next couple of months. He would then submit the amendment to the Juneau Planning Commission by February or March. A final plan would go to the Juneau Assembly by April, he said.

Assembly members interviewed said they support covered walkways.

Assembly member Jim Powell spearheaded the need for canopies years ago and supports Beanes' study, he said. Canopies enhance the experience of visiting downtown for legislators, visitors and residents, Powell said.

"It's one of the things that I've wanted to happen during my time on the Assembly," he said.

The Assembly has approved $200,000 for covered walkways, and Powell would support additional funding if necessary, he said.

Covered walkways would be especially useful in the Seward Street area between the downtown parking garage and the Capitol, Assembly members Dan Peterson and Marc Wheeler said.

Peterson said canopies "seemed like an inexpensive way" to greatly improve the downtown experience for pedestrians.

Covered walkways would extend beyond the historic district into mixed-use and waterfront commercial zones, Beanes said.

Canopies would be of the same height, and would have recessed lighting and reflect the architecture of the building while complementing the streetscape, the unfinished study says.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.



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