Sunday, September 21, 2008

JL Tower's LED display finally gets its due

I was kinda surprised as I picked up the Sunday edition of the ADN this morning to see that the LED lighting of the new JL Tower made the front page. Ermm... the penthouse of the new building has been lit with blue, green, and even red (for a short time) since the dark nights of December '07. So why report on the towers colorful floodlights now? Well apparently the lighting show has finally been tuned after tweaking around with the display since late last year. Okay, well that's cool. What I find really appealing about the buildings nighttime appearance however, is the white floodlights from the ground that brighten the entire building facade. Despite making the building look as if it's clamoring for even more attention, I really liked the idea of bathing the whole facade in light (just as long as it's on only for the early evening and not the entire night). Anyways so todays article goes on to interview the developers at JL Properties as they talk about how they have used recycled materials as tabletop counters, exercise rooms for employees, a Kaladi Bros. cafe, blah blah blah. I guess what I found really amusing was the urban analysis that a consultant who was interviewed for the article used when describing the future prosperity of the area where the JL Tower sits:

"The building is a harbinger of what's to come...
The area is attractive to builders because of its expanses of undeveloped land, especially compared to crowded downtown".

Expanses of land? More than half of the available land in that area is gone! Unlike downtown, which has public parking garages readily available to the benefit of developers, the developers behind 'Plaza 36' squandered the former trailer park neighborhood with acres of surface parking lots for their buildings. Each of the parking lots for the JL Tower, ASRC, and Centerpoint Plaza have a larger footprint than the building itself. From the appearance of it, it seems only the new Alutiiq Plaza and the AlaskaUSA Financial Center have more building and less parking (I could be wrong though). Anyways the consultant goes on to say:

"From a public transportation point of view, it makes sense to concentrate offices in one area because it's easier for workers to take the bus".

If we're going to talk about it from a public transport point of view, I think it would have been preferable that the buildings in the Plaza 36 area give up some of their ego and join the heart of Midtown rather than be on the edge of Midtown in a sea of asphalt. In other words, do what the developers behind 188 West Northern Lights did and build a tower that truly cares about the future of Anchorage. Unlike the JL Tower, 188 WNL is situated between Northern Lights Boulevard and Benson in front of C Street -- perhaps the most visible location in the city today. The building offers space for ground floor retail while the parking garage is snugged quietly into the building. A first for Anchorage that deserves positive recognition. Instead of the People Mover bus making a detour to serve the new Plaza 36 office park on the edge of Midtown, workers in the JL Tower could have walked to existing bus stops already in place in the heart of Midtown, had the JL Tower been located there instead of the edge. With that, here's a map that shows the remaining land available for the developers at JL Properties when including surface parking:

click to enlarge

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