Saturday, October 4, 2008

A look inside the Dena'ina Convention Center

If you didn't go to see some stand up by Damon Wayans and his son Friday at the new convention center, Saturday was your second chance. The Dena'ina Center hosted both the Alaskan Student Youth Conference, and a rally for the McCain/Palin campaign. Though neither event sounded the least bit interesting, that of course didn't stop me from mozying on down and wandering my way around the new building with camera at hand to get some interior shots. Just to remind readers, the Dena'ina Center is no doubt a significant addition to the city's total space for trade shows and conventions. The Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau claims the $111 million 200,000 square foot building adds a 300% increase to the total capacity the city can handle in convention and civic space. A look inside the building will make you convinced as it has for me. Despite the convention center occupying only one city block rather than 3 in a earlier proposal (which was voted down by residents due to its original finance scheme), the interior is ridiculously huge and will have to make you wonder what kind of trade show or event will demand the use of every room in the building. Unlike the Egan Center, the ceilings are much higher on each floor while the lobby at the entrance has a dramatic canyon effect in which there's nothing between the ground floor and the very top of the building. Most noticeably however, is the amount of natural light that floods into each floor of the building. Even on a cloudy day, you don't sense any need for artificial lighting to be on. I don't even recall whether the lights in the main hallways were actually on or not. This use of natural light really makes the building a nice alternative to the dark windowless Egan Center and Sullivan Arena. In a departure from its older brothers, even the main exhibition hall has windows. But before you even plot, no, you can't watch whatever is happening in the hall from the streets. Trust me, I figured it was a defect and that I can watch Damon Wayans through the window with a glass cup to my ear. Sadly that wasn't to be. Each window has giant blinds that can be pulled down come showtime. And yes, they were sadly pulled down. In the end, the new convention center brought me back to when the Terminal C Concourse at the airport opened three years ago. The modern minimalist architecture combined with an intense amount of natural light for a non-airport building is a first for a public building in the city (though it won't be the last once the new museum expansion opens a few blocks east). Before I sign off for today, I gotta mention that the Dena'ina Center was added by someone to the website of ClubPlanet -- a directory for nightlife hot spots. Here's what they say in a brief review:

"Dena''ina Center - Beer? Check. Newspapers? Check. Dena''ina Center, at 600 W 7Th Ave, offers your usual selection of imports, domestics, and so on. Craaaaazy, out-of-control entertainment? Ummmm… Not so much. Your odds of meeting "the one" here are approximate to what you’d find on a desert island (less, when you consider "Lost"), but your odds of finding a six-pack are damn near 100%".

I can't say I'm surprised by the review. Had the Dena'ina Center failed to supply me with an abundant amount of newspapers and beer that morning, I would have to question the motives and integrity of the developers behind this building. As for the "craaaaazy" out-of-control entertainment, I beg to differ! Clearly they didn't see Hobo Jim entertain the crowd at the McCain/Palin rally.

By the way, an open house to the public will be held October 18th just before the AFN conference begins. I shall return!

(click to view)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

F Street improvements complete

Although the F Street Connectivity Project actually came to a conclusion two weeks ago along with the Pacillo Parking Garage, I figured I'd dedicate a post solely to the new and improved F Street which is looking pretty nice on a rare sunny afternoon (for those of you outside the state, we've been having some rough weather). Like I said in an earlier post regarding the Dena'ina Center which sits on F Street, the area now feels like another city. New street lights, lamps, concrete designs, benches, bike racks, trash cans, and knee-capers (at least that's what I call them after a bad personal experience) have made the area blossom into a little oasis of 21st century urbanism that is certainly needed in a city that many dub "Los Anchorage" for its car-culture and fast paced low quality expansion south of Downtown. One thing that caught me off guard as I didn't really noticed it on the blueprint is the absence of curbs between the sidewalk and street. The whole surface of F Street is now leveled with only the colored concrete and knee-capers to the side differentiating between the street and sidewalk. Personally I'm kinda nervous of such a move as wise people will know never to underestimate the ability of Anchorage drivers to somehow screw up. If there's a will, they'll certainly find a way to make planners shake their heads. I'm reminded of when the South Anchorage neighborhood of South Port got its first roundabout a few years ago. Instead of turning to the right, some drivers gave up and drove straight over the grass island. If you're going to screw up on a roundabout, at least make the mistake of turning left, but going straight??? Anyways, one thing that appears to be missing is the canopy to hang over a portion of the sidewalk on the left side looking north. Was that plan scratched? Not that it was very important, at least for me anyway. All in all, I think the biggest winners from this project were the businesses that line the street. Sub Zero Micro Lounge, Dark Horse Coffee, and Stephens Fine Arts now have a sidewalk much larger than the one found on G Street. By the way, the new looks of F Street are expected to be child's play compared to the very liberal improvements that will come with the E Street Corridor Project. That's the project construction fanatics will be really looking forward to. Anyways, some additional pics for ya of the new F Street:

(click to view)