Friday, May 23, 2008

Full steam ahead for F Street this weekend

The F Street Connectivity Project, which started on May 1st, is set to go under full construction mode this Memorial Day Weekend as 6th Avenue from G Street to C Street will be closed off to vehicular traffic. A separate project by the Alaska DOT will occur simultaneously between D and C Street, hence the long stretch of 6th Avenue being shut down. The F Street Connectivity Project will revamp F Street with the addition of new brick patterns both on the sidewalk and roadway, wider sidewalks, and pedestrian-friendly bottle neck intersections for both F and 6th, and F and 7th. The Town Square Donor Bricks presently lying in the affected area of this weekends construction will be removed and returned to Town Square at a later date. Stephans Fine Arts Gallery and Sub Zero Microlounge will remain open this weekend with pedestrian access remaining available to both sites. Alaska Gourmet Subs will also stay open with pedestrian access available from the City Hall parking lot.

F Street Connectivity Project blue print (PDF)

Official road closure notice

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Muldoon Wal-Mart gets the last laugh

Well it looks like Wal-Mart has become the overall victor in the seemingly endless battle between Wal-Mart/Sam's Club and the residents of the surrounding Muldoon neighborhoods. Wal-Mart will no longer have to comply with its previous "give-backs" to Muldoon which included a 2 acre park, a 200 ft. buffer between the big box development and the Old Harbor neighborhood, a plant filled median, and a plaza roundabout between the Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores. I have to wonder though, since when was a plant filled median considered an "amenity"? At least that's how the ADN described the median among other things now lost in the deal. So why does Wal-Mart no longer have to give Muldoon its plant filled median and other generous amenities? Earlier this year a judge ruled that the Anchorage Assembly's approval for Wal-Mart's rezoning was flawed as the Planning and Zoning Department was left out of changes made by the Muni and the public while Assembly member Dan Coffey had a conflict of interest that other Assembly members brushed off as being non-harmful to the process. As a result, Wal-Mart, now with its little piece of land zoned for commercial use, has decided to squeeze both its new Supercenter and Sam's Club into the remaining 33 acres which will have both buildings side by side with a large parking lot right in front of DeBarr Road old school suburban style! The remaining land that Wal-Mart bought for the Assembly approved rezone will be sold as they return back to residential use.

Now that this whole mess seems to be over, I say the Assembly deserves the humiliation. For Mayor Begich and the Assembly to bend over backwards for a business that would throw off entirely the Creekside Town Center master plan was frustrating to watch. Sure Wal-Mart owned the land, and it has a right to do what it wants so long as they meet the building codes of the area, but to rubber stamp Wal-Mart's demand to convert residential property into commercial was a demand we never had to meet. We could've just said "oh you own residential land around the commercial property too? That's nice...", and leave it at that. While Anchorage has spent years whipping up a sustainable 2020 plan that involves mass transit, compact development, etc, Wal-Mart's sudden barge into that particular area was an affront to the whole city as the Creekside Town Center project was beginning to get underway just across the street. In the end, I will miss that plant filled median that never was...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Condominium or fortress?

From a distance, the new B. Street Commons look like a great addition to the South Addition neighborhood, but look closer and unlike its neighbors, the developers behind the Commons left something out from the front facade. What is it? They forgot the doors! Instead of having a front entrance connecting the condominium to the Delaney Park Strip, the main doors and garage have been tucked behind the building on a gravel filled alley. To add insult to injury, there are no windows on the ground floor of the Commons. Instead, all the front sidewalk gets is blank walls, those tiresome brown garden bricks, and presumably, a manicured lawn. Overall, while the B. Street Commons looks good from afar, closer inspection shows a building that seems to be afraid of its neighbors and therefore guard its ground level base while keeping its residents safe on the upper floors where they can watch the blood bath from their balconies.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Anchorage International v. Coastal Trail

Once again we find ourselves with another partisan debate between Democrats and Republicans. At least in name only. As the ADN reports today, airport officials are seeking four different proposals for a new north-south runway that will run parallel to its existing runway in order to handle a growth in cargo traffic that is expected to continue into 2020. All four proposals will require realignment of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail with the top proposal being the most dramatic as it will involve spilling in 130 acres of earth onto Cook Inlet to serve as new ground for the proposed runway. Proposal 3 will also run over what is now Woronzof Park while proposals 2 and 4 will be less dramatic and save the park, but will scoot the trail closer to the AWWU treatment plant (the stinky place). The Municipality bought what is now Woronzof Park from the airport in a 1994 land swap in order to build Kincaid Elementary.

With a public meeting to be held this Wednesday evening at the Coast International Inn, expect some emotional testimonies from both sides. I myself am not sure what to think of this. With a forecast by the airport showing continued growth for the next several years, a new runway sounds like a must, but at what cost to the trail, its users, and its wildlife habitat?

*Update - According to the ADN, the folks at Steven's International apparently took a beating at last nights public meeting in which, as I predicted, the Coast International Inn would be packed with trail users opposing the new runway plans. But get this: besides trail users, airliners were also against the proposals. Airport officials say the plans will be shelved... for now.