The Assembly is considering a Planning Commission recommendation to close the narrow downtown street for three years. But Public Works and Facilities Committee members yesterday (Monday) punted it to the Assembly Committee of the Whole, saying they’re not convinced it’s necessary.
Community Development Interim Director Greg Chaney says the idea has been around since the beginning of the cruise ship boom in the 1980s.
“Since that time businesses catering to the cruise ship passengers have moved south on South Franklin, so Shattuck Way is not quite the hot spot it was in the early ’80s,” he says. “The will to turn this into a pedestrian way sort of waned over time.”
Now Miners Mercantile owner Rick Harris wants the street closed. Built at a time when the idea had some traction, the Mercantile has windows and doors opening onto the street that can’t be used.
Closing Shattuck Way would result in the loss of several parking spaces, an idea that a number of downtown businesses oppose.
Dan Glidmann manages Merchants Wharf as well as Goldstein Properties – which owns an entire block of Seward Street. Glidmann calls downtown short-term on-street parking critically important.
“There are only 14 parking spaces on Seward Street from Third Street to Front Street, approximately seven on each block. Imagine the reaction I would get if I requested the elimination of one entire block of parking,” he told committee members. “I would be laughed out of the (CBJ) permit center.”
The first two hours of on-street parking are free, but not in downtown garages,
“Not only would we have we taken away parking places, but we now have charged the public for parking somewhere,” notes Assemblywoman Mary Becker.
The proposal also affects the cultural center to be built by Sealaska Heritage Institute on the vacant lot across Shattuck Way from Miners Mercantile.
Funds are still being raised, but construction could begin as soon as February of next year.
Sealaska Heritage Chief Operating Officer Lee Kadinger says now is not the time to close a street that will be needed for construction.
“We’re looking to target for beginning construction and then all of a sudden moving that to a pedestrian plaza which would try attract tourists in the midst of a construction site,” Kadiner says. “We just think it’s ill-timed.”
In sending the proposal to the Committee of the Whole, Public Works committee members say if the street is closed it should not happen before October 1st.