Juneau residents got to see huge, color posters of what future development on the city’s waterfront might look like. Not at a municipal meeting, but at a local bar during Gallery Walk.
In August, Huna Totem Corporation — a Juneau-based village corporation that represents Hoonah shareholders — announced an agreement with Norwegian Cruise lines to develop what’s known as the subport, next to the U.S. Coast Guard Station downtown.
HTC is calling the development Aak’w Landing. Large, full-color conceptual designs for what it could look like lined the walls of a back room at The Crystal Saloon on Friday night.
Organizers of the event said the goal was to allow more of the public engage with the plans. Huna Totem CEO Russell Dick credited Mayor Beth Weldon with the idea.
“Not everybody tunes in to the Assembly meetings,” said Dick. “So getting out here and experiencing it in this fashion and listening to folks talk about it — things they like, things they don’t like — it’s a good way to do it.”
Bluegrass concert-goers from the other room meandered through the images, with cocktails. Some chatted with Huna Totem leadership or one of the architects behind the drawings.
The event pulled John Hillman and his wife off the street while they were enjoying Gallery Walk.
“Walking by, we saw the Huna Totem sign here. We didn’t know it was gonna be here,” he said.
Hillman and his wife are shareholders, so they popped inside.
“Well, it’s exciting,” said Hillman. “Finding out for the first time what it’s going to look like and all that, and meeting with the guy that’s planning it and knowing Russell since Russell was a little young man himself, and now he’s leading the charge.”
They sipped wine and toured the images with Corey Wall of Juneau design firm Jensen Yorba Wall. Wall said the firm has been working with Huna Totem for nearly two years.
He said the current design will include elements from Norwegian Cruise Lines’ original plan for the lot.
“I think a lot of people are just trying to see now, with Huna Totem taking it over, if it’s still going to be a similar project,” he said. “And I think people are very happy to see that we still have the below-grade bus parking, and we’ve got the park over the top of it.”
Huna Totem aims to complete construction on a 10,000-foot visitor center and a new cruise ship berth with a curved trestle by 2025. Wall said cruise ship infrastructure and parking will be hidden by retail and landscaping. There’s also room in the plans for 35,000 feet of what the company calls “flex space,” which could be anything from apartments to an ocean center that could be constructed later.
That’s the plan, but there are many steps to go in the public process. There will be more opportunities for feedback on a project of this magnitude.
“The Juneau waterfront is complex,” said Alexandra Pierce, CBJ’s Tourism Director. “We need to make sure that all the uses on our working waterfront are accommodated.”
After Huna Totem Corporation submits its request for a conditional use permit, the project will begin the public process. City meetings will determine if the plans comply with code, then Assembly meetings will determine if the project serves the whole community. The Assembly will have the final say over whether the project can make use of the city’s tidelands property or build a new dock.
“It’s exciting to see the possibility of something happening there,” Pierce said. “And it’s our duty at the city to make sure that if that site’s developed, it’s developed in a way that is positive for the community.”
Huna Totem Corporation estimated that more than 450 people filtered through Friday’s event. Architect Corey Wall looked around the room at his designs.
“I think people are really excited about the park, and the idea that that’s gonna be something for Juneau,” Wall said.
More than a dozen images show intricate plans to keep tour buses out of view and scenic outlooks from big-windowed buildings.
“It looks probably far more finished than it is,” he said. “It’s still very, you know, malleable, depending on the feedback we get.”
This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Juneau design firm Jensen Yorba Wall.