Saturday, October 11, 2008

Project in Profile - Native Hospital Expansion

Just thought I'd cover some of the lesser known projects well under way throughout the Anchorage Bowl to make up for the lack of fresh developments coverage as construction progress citywide starts to slow now that the grass is turning crunchy with frost in the morning and people rush to Johnson's Tire Service in a last minute panic to get their studded tires on.

One project that took me by a bit of surprise when driving west down Tudor recently is an expansion of the Alaska Native Medical Center. Okay that's not so surprising, especially considering the new building is rising next to the new parking garage. That area of town has certainly become a high-density free-for-all over the last 7 years or so. Kinda like Midtown in the 70s and 80s. One of my favorite restaurants, 'The Last Frontier' fell victim to this progress three years ago as the building was demolished to make way for the now just completed garage. Anyways the new building currently going up will serve as an expansion to the existing Alaska Native Primary Care Center across the street from the Native Medical Center and will be operated by the Southcentral Foundation (which also runs the existing ANPCC). According to the Foundation, the expansion will be 80,000 square feet and will serve to the needs of the growing number of patients relocating from the villages to Anchorage. The new building, or "Phase III" as they call it, is expected to be completed in late 2009.

Of course we haven't seen the peak yet. In an article last year for the Alaska Business Monthly, the administrator with the Alaska Native Medical Center mentions plans in the future for a parking garage north of the hospital along with a $123 million dollar expansion.

(click to view)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

7th and C traffic lights flick on

The intersection of 7th Avenue and C Street wasn't so much an intersection as it was more of an alley going through a highway. That was until late last week when the traffic lights which were installed later in the summer were uncovered from their protective sheets and put into operation. Since the discussions of an expansion to the Anchorage Museum of History and Art came to the forefront some years ago, the topic of reconnecting the museum to lively West Downtown also became part of that discussion. As my local Anchoragites can attest, while the Egan, Dena'ina, and Performing Arts Center as well as other attractions enjoy a close pedestrian friendly proximity from one another, the Anchorage Museum of History and Art paired with the Federal Building across the street have for many years become excluded from the "in-crowd" of downtown attractions as they sat on the other side of a busy three lane artery that is free of stop signs and where cars coming from the Glenn Highway or the port of Anchorage often accelerate up to 40 mph south toward Midtown. If you're not catching on, C Street is such a wide and divisive road that it has become the unofficial boundary line between West Downtown and East Downtown. Though the city has been making an effort for years now, East Downtown continues to lag way behind the lively West, and I think C Street may be a factor. Now of course a set of lights will not cure all the problems, rather there is still a long way to go; but it's start. Besides the lighted intersection, the proposed controversial Highway to Highway project would keep commuters on the Glenn Highway and direct them into the Seward Highway rather than having traffic leave the highway in large numbers and flooding into C Street like a gush of water breaking through a dam. And it's not just C Street that is a problem. It's also A Street, 5th Avenue, and 6th Avenue. In the meantime, it will be nice to see how things are next summer once the new museum is open and pedestrians are no longer having to make a mad dash to the other side so as to not become roadkill.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Title 21 public discussion

This Thursday at noon the Muni will be hosting a brown bag discussion on the Title 21 Rewrite that is open for all who are interested. From the email:

"This is an opportunity to ask questions and learn about Anchorage’s recommended new off-street parking regulations relative to the other site development provisions in Title 21 that are now going forward to the municipal Planning & Zoning Commission for deliberation and action. The brown bag agenda includes a 20-minute presentation and 30 minutes for dialogue, Q and A. Participants will get an overview and have opportunities to ask questions about topics such as:

* How the required number of parking spaces is (and is not) changing;
* Flexible parking standards that recognize different project locations and characteristics;
* How the number of spaces affects user convenience, development costs, location, and Anchorage 2020 policies;
* Balancing quality and quantity: parking space dimensions, landscaping, and lighting; and
* Balancing trip choice: placement of buildings near sidewalks; maintaining driver convenience; required walkways; bicycle parking; share-a-ride and transit"

"The Brown Bag will be from 12 noon to 1 p.m. in the Planning and Development Center's Training Room, 4700 Elmore Road, Anchorage".

For those not in the know, Title 21 is the Municipalities guide that deals with planning and land use codes. It's been 400 years since it was last updated, but with the city adopting the Anchorage 2020 Comprehensive Plan back in 2001, a rewrite of Title 21 is needed in order to carry out what Anchorage 2020 calls for. This includes greater pedestrian friendliness, alternative uses of transportation, and more sustainable use of land. To respond to this, Title 21 is being rewritten with codes that include zoning changes, restrictions on surface parking lots, financial benefits for developers of mixed-use projects, and other new standards. The large stack of papers that is Title 21 is to be reviewed and possibly amended chapter by chapter by the Anchorage Assembly. Several chapters have already been passed, and if I'm correct, there's only a small amount left.

As you can see, I provided a link to the Muni's page on Title 21, but consider yourself warned! Any attempt to read every document relating to Title 21 without getting off your chair is certain to create severe blood circulation problems. If you must read it all, please take breaks and stretch every once in a while.

Dena'ina Center to operate at a loss

First it was my story on Wasilla's suburban mess, now the ADN is reporting on the new convention center one day after I write a post about it here. Hmmm... are they getting their story ideas from yours truly? Eh.. maybe not. Regardless, the Dena'ina Center makes the front page of Mondays Anchorage Daily News with an article about how although the convention centers backers have been able to show off the buildings on-time completion along with maintaining its promise not to use property tax, the new building along with the Egan Center will operate at a loss for the first full year. To make things more interesting, the $1.47 million that is being projected as a loss into 2009 is way too close for comfort as the cap of funding from bed-tax is set at $1.6 million. Should that cap be exceeded, who will foot the bill? Okay, now that I've got you interested, read the article.

On a related note, another article on one of the art installations that can be found in the building (seen above^, left) thanks to the 1% art program, also from Monday's ADN.