CBJ approves Archipelago project

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) The Assembly voted 7-2 to approve the waterfront project.

    Loren Jones and Rob Edwardson were the only dissenting votes.

    The Assembly authorized the City Manager to execute a purchase and sales agreement with Archipelago Properties LLC for three lots near 356 South Franklin Street.  The net cost is $922,175.

    Rorie Watt said the rapid growth of cruise ships and visitors requires addition facilities to serve the industry.  Since the opening of a new floating berth at Alaska Steamship Wharf, dockings have increased by 44 percent and the number of passengers has increased by 182-percent.

    John Binkley with Cruise Lines International Association sent a letter to the CBJ.  In it he removed the opposition they had toward the project.

    Another ordinance appropriated $11 million to fund the project.  The CBJ will use cruise passenger vessel excise tax, port development fees marine passenger fee funds and dock funds fund balance.

    The total cost of the project is $23.5 million.  Phase I would include the purchase of property, the pilings, the installed decks and surface improvements.  The second phase would include a covered passenger shelter and restrooms.

    Another $6 million will come from the Statter Harbor Improvement phase III and open space waterfront land acquisition capital improvement project.    $4.5 million comes from the state cruise passenger vessel excise tax and $1.5 million from the Statter Harbor project.

    Dennis Harris said the project was needed for smaller vehicles like taxis and limousines and not tour buses.  "We have more and more stuff for the industry but not much for local businesses."

    He said it is time to do a study to determine the maximum carrying capacity for Juneau and still have an quality experience.  "We want to keep Juneau a quality experience.  We need to emphasize more independent travelers that stay at bed and breakfasts.'

    He said a lot of small businesses depend on the tourist industry.

    Kirby Day of Princess Cruises represented tourism best management practices in Juneau.  He said a number of organizations have supported the project.  "We have talked about this since 2010-2011.  There is a need for more staging space.  This project seems to fit very nicely.  Docks and harbors has done very nicely in the public process."

    Day said the lot will have some space for small mini buses and vans.  "It does provide additional capacity for both docks.  We have worked really hard for 22 years to reduce downtown congestion.  If we don't do this and find an additional spot, it would push us back to where we were 15-20 years where we have vehicles driving all over town, looking for places to pull over, and add to the congestion."

    Day said the growth is coming and must be managed in a prudent way that makes the downtown core more palatable for those that live here and for visitors.

    Day said 11 vans, taxi cabs and mini buses could handle 200 people per hour each day and up to 2,000 passengers in one day at this property. 

    Assembly member Rob Edwardson wanted to know the public purpose that this project serves.

    Day said it will serve the public by moving people in and out of downtown.  He said it will go a long way toward removing some of the challenges with vehicular traffic downtown.  "If these spots are not available the smaller vehicles would end up in major staging lots, that pushes spaces out for larger coaches, now either the smaller vehicle or the bus are driving around looking for a spot to go into."

    "It is already tough to move throughout the community.  This gives us another drop off spot, gets them out of the corp of downtown and helps all of us that live here to move throughout the community.  It serves the purpose that makes sure as we go, we find ways to be proactive, much like what other ports around the world are doing to accommodate the growth," he added.

    Edwardson said there are a lot of visitors coming, estimated to be 1.3 million passengers next year.  He said he couldn't decide how a new parking area would help.   

    Assembly member Loren Jones said the CBJ has artificially divided the town with the winter and summer.  He urged more thought, think of ways to deal with the impacts, and not reach capacity.  "Were one stop on a cruise tour.  Cruises years ago, came up her, people got off, some would take a plane, some go back to Seattle, these are non-turn arounds now.  If we go to 1.5 million, where else can they go.  Can Ketchikan, Sitka, and Hoonah handle 1.5 million people?"

    Assembly member Wade Bryson said this develops the last major waterfront area and was consistent with the CBJ plan.   He said it would be a major boost to the local economy,  "This will handle 1,500 to 1,800 people who will be milling around downtown wondering where to catch a bus.  It will increase the tourism cash flow.  If the project includes additional restaurants and shops, they will capture additional dollars."

    Bryson said additional buildings could lower rents and create more opportunity for potential Juneau business owners.  Another benefit was more restrooms and additional sales taxes.  "This increased economy, a $23 million project on the books.  This project has gone on for two years.  This would be the largest project in Juneau and moves our economy forward."

    Assembly member Michele Bonnet-Hale said the increase in tourism will have impacts.  "I do not believe a long vacant lot.  It has not been the city practice to encourage lots to remain vacant.  I really believe if we have a project that a lot of thought has been put into, we should move forward with it."

    Assembly member Carol Triem said she had an issue with a clause that allows the owner of the property to object in perpetuity to other commercial uses on the property owned by the CBJ.    "This is distorting a free market.  We would be giving Morris Communications this right and incentive that no other Juneau business would have.  That is not something the Assembly should do.  It gives too much power to a private property owner."

    The CBJ will receive $194,000 for the clause in this contract.

    Triem said she supports food truck and taco trucks on every corner.

    Jones said there is nothing in the purchase and sale agreement that requires Morris Communication to do anything on the property while the CBJ constructs the infrastructure and spends millions.

    Assembly member Mary Becker said the clause only means the CBJ won't go into competition with Morris Communication. 

    Mayor Beth Weldon said she likes this project because of the deck over and shelter gives the the CBJ plenty of room to handle people and traffic. "I want to keep open space there through perpetuity, be open for concerts, a big space for the community to gather.  If you have to evacuate the ship its a great place to put people."

    The Assembly also approved the purchase of $783,820 in materials needed for this project.  The low bid came from Island Contractors.

    In another waterfront project the CBJ appropriated $200,000 for a visitor information kiosk downtown.  The low bid came from Island Contractors for $163,873.

    The Assembly also agreed to spend $170,000 to fund a dock security stations at the cruise ship terminal and the Alaska steamship wharf.

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