Assembly approves leasing former downtown pocket park for food court

Tourists stand in front of the former Gunakadeit Park, also known as Pocket Park, which was demolished along with the Gastineau Apartments in 2016. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

The Juneau Assembly approved a motion Monday to turn space formerly occupied by a pocket park in downtown Juneau into a seasonal food court.

David McCasland, who owns fish taco stand Deckhand Dave’s, typically operates with other vendors on the Archipelago Lot by the cruise ship docks in the summer.

“This is just a stepping stone toward something greater because this is only a small part of the project,” McCasland said after the meeting.

An ongoing development plan between the city and the company that owns the lot McCasland uses has left vendors unsure if they will have a place to go next summer.

McCasland originally wanted to buy the currently vacant lot from the city to serve as a seasonal food court, but the city Lands Committee recommended declining the offer in favor of a temporary lease.

The Assembly motion to allow the city to lease space in the former Gunakadeit Park passed with a five to three vote with Assemblymember Maria Gladziszewski absent.

Assemblymember Loren Jones objected, saying he worried that the cost of installing infrastructure and permits to make a food court feasible might be too expensive for a seasonal business.

“It’s a great idea and if he owned the land outright and he owned the other land around it and he wanted to do that, that would be his prerogative to develop his land,” Jones said during the meeting. “This is CBJ land, and it would set us up on a short term basis to be in competition with brick and mortar restaurants right downtown.”

McCasland said he’s excited to move forward with the plan. He’s prepared to install whatever electric and water hookups are needed to make the food court a reality.

“It’s the cost of doing business. If I don’t have a place and that’s the only option, then whatever it takes,” he said.

For now, McCasland said the small lot will only allow space for his business and Alaska Crepe Escape. He said he would like to purchase the vacant lot next door to give other displaced vendors a place to go.

The city reached a settlement with the owners of that neighboring lot this summer and has expressed interest in packaging the two lots together for sale.

Another proposal to lease city land behind Home Depot to Juneau Composts! also passed unanimously Monday.

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