Development of the Juneau waterfront is a perennial issue that has occupied the minds of officials and residents since the establishment of mining in the area. A good portion of downtown is built on rock fill from the AJ Mine and has allowed the construction of many buildings – everything from City Hall, Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall and Centennial Hall to the Alaska State Museum and the U.S. Coast Guard Station. It’s interesting to imagine what Juneau would be like if those areas hadn’t been filled in.
In the early 2000s, the City and Borough of Juneau spent significant time working to decide how to respond to rapid growth within cruise ship visitation. Those efforts culminated in the adoption of the Long Range Waterfront Plan in 2004. That plan led to the construction of the Seawalk projects and the Docks & Harbors two new floating cruise ship berths. Juneau was recently hailed by industry representatives for having the vision and stamina to plan and install the berths that are ready for the current generation of ships. Both Juneau citizens and visitors appreciate and enjoy Juneau’s world class waterfront walkways. Again, vision and planning led to the construction of facilities that have a very positive impact on the community.
But where do we want to be 20 years from now?
Docks & Harbors is advancing the next round of waterfront planning with its “Marine Park-Taku Dock Urban Design Plan.” The public process will help the city figure out how to best balance the needs and wants of the community and the visitor industry. There are open questions about whether CBJ should pursue improving shore side transportation infrastructure, or lease property for private development, or allow commercial activity. Decisions on questions like these could provide very different outcomes. The Docks & Harbors board is holding a workshop on Aug. 29, a public presentation on Sept. 6 and an Open Studio session on Sept. 7.
At the sub port, CBJ staff members are engaging in wide conversations with managers of state and federal facilities and the Assembly has gone on record encouraging the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority to dispose of its waterfront property to the private sector. The vacant land is underutilized and presents opportunity for continued development of the waterfront. The federal facilities have some aging infrastructure and it’s important to start planning now. CBJ is looking to the future, dreaming of what’s possible over the next twenty years.
(This originally appeared in the August 15, 2017 Juneau Empire in a segment called, “City Corner”)