For subport/waterfront development, CBJ is involved & plans ahead
As a maritime community, the City and Borough of Juneau focuses a lot of time and effort into waterfront development. While somewhat out of the public eye, CBJ is often involved in discussions and activity associated with subport properties, which are owned by a combination of the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority (AMHTA), and the private sector. Because each entity is motivated by diverse missions, negotiating with the parties can be slow and challenging.
Take for example, a chunk of subport property owned by AMHTA. Because the subport has some of the very few unused, flat spaces downtown, AMHTA had been considering using its land for surface parking for State of Alaska employees. The Juneau Assembly previously weighed in with a resolution supporting the sale of AMHTA property to a private sector group that proposes the Alaska Ocean Center, an ambitious waterfront development project. AMHTA has not yet agreed to sell the parcel as its land management mission is guided by its determination of the best interests of AMHTA and its beneficiaries.
CBJ has strenuously and repeatedly argued that those best interests are served by accepting the above market value offer from the private sector group, and a recent report by the McDowell Group shows that streams of payments from short-term leasing are much less economically advantageous than a simple sale with appropriate investment of the proceeds. The AMHTA has received this information and awaits the results of a Legislative Audit over its financial management procedures – a wait that CBJ has argued is unnecessary. CBJ has argued that there is no scenario where the best interests of the AMHTA are not achieved by a simple and quick sale.
Immediately next to the AMHTA property is the old wooden wharf where government vessels occasionally tie up. The USCG dock face is generally underutilized and the NOAA section has portions of the dock that have failed. CBJ is jointly meeting with NOAA and USCG staff with a goal of finding the highest, best and most continuous use of the downtown waterfront, while protecting and promoting federal employment.
In this year’s draft CBJ Marine Passenger Fee allocation, funding is proposed to study small cruise ship berthing options. Smaller cruise ships have an important economic footprint and planning work on that front is under consideration. The new cruise ship berths took a decade to develop and CBJ is actively working on the long, slow work of the next phases of waterfront development.