Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Anchorage construction rundown - Fall 2011

oh man.. I'm clearly not the type who can be counted on to regularly update a blog. Thanks to those of you who have stayed around and enjoyed the ride. I don't know how the Perez Hilton's and Andrew Sullivan's of the blogosphere do it, but my respect goes out to them. In any case, my lack of updates has kinda led to a small bottleneck of construction projects around town not being posted even as they are about to cut the ribbon and open up shop, or even worse, have already opened up. I will not let any major project escape archive on this blog, so I'll start with listing projects that are about complete or already complete and then work my way down to projects just getting started. First up:

The Terraces at Northpointe
Ah yes, what I love about the name for this residential project is that it contains three classic clich├ęs that are common among new residential projects across the country. 1.) The project is spelled in all lowercase (and I respected their grammar choice by keeping it lowercase on the headline), 2.) they put an unnecessary 'e' at the end of northpoint, and 3.) the old @ symbol. Of course. Besides proving that they are too 21st century to settle for "at", it also scores the developers extra cool points because they get to use the [insert building type] @ [insert location name] template. the cottages @ citycentre. You see, what's not to love? Anyways I don't know exactly when they opened, but I imagine it had to be this summer. I regularly drive around the rail yard which these units look out towards and noticed these buildings taking shape during the winter and spring of this year. I appreciate that the developers (the same ones behind Aurora Square [scroll down]) chose more daring architecture which Anchorage could use a lot more of compared to the tiresome wood and slanted roof residential units. So here you are, the terraces @ northpointe, forever archived on anchoragejoop. [edit]: I should probably mention for those wondering that this is in East Government Hill near Elmendorf.


S Tower, Providence Hospital
The Alaska Journal of Commerce refers to this building offhandedly as the mother-baby tower, but I think I'll just stick with the 'S' Tower... you know.. since there's a giant S on the building. Apparently the new building (I think 5 storeys) will be home to newborn intensive care and all the other good stuff that goes with newborns and their moms. Embarrassingly I didn't notice this building until it looked the way it does on the above picture after I just happened to drive by one recent day. Yea I know.. way to go me! But Providence has nearly doubled since 2006, so I wasn't surprised at all to see new buildings coming up almost unnoticed. A roundabout has been built nearby and will link this post-2006 portion of Providence with a new road leading to Lake Otis (and consequently a new intersection for Lake Otis).

UAA Health Sciences Building
A stone throws away from the new building at Providence is the UAA Health Sciences Building. Just as the new Integrated Science Building (brought to you by ConocoPhillips!!!) houses all the fields ranging from geology to astronomy, the Health Sciences building will consolidate all of UAA's... health sciences! This will be the first building in UAA's main campus to be located across the street thus ensuring that future generations will whine and moan about having to hustle from their Calculus I class past parking lots and a busy street to get to Biology on a crisp January day. A skybridge over Providence Drive linking the building to the main campus had been floated around a bit, but seeing that there is no bridge in the final product, it must have fell through. And that's a good thing as a bridge connecting the two would look ridiculous... not worse than the proposed bridge linking City Hall, the PAC, and the new Convention Center, but still bad nonetheless. The ribbon cutting ceremony for this building is October 7th.

Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Health Communities Building








Of course! the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Health Communities Building building. Just like the last two, this building is also rising in the U-Med district in East Anchorage. At 97,000 sq. ft., the 5 story building will house the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consort.'s Environmental Health and Engineering division. They would be the folks in charge of building public health infrastructure out in the Bush. I haven't paid attention, but I believe ANTHC's main building is the one right next to it, built around 2006.

Three Cedars Office Building









Couldn't really find anything about this building. A search for the term "Three Cedars Office Building, Anchorage" yielded only dead end leads. The one page that did get me somewhere was a gallery of the groundbreaking ceremony on Mayor Dan Sullivan's Facebook page..... ermm, okay(?). Anyways, the building is rising near the corner of New Seward and Northern Lights right next to the new Walgreens that opened up earlier this summer in place of the old Midas. It's a bit of an odd location in contrast to where all the other office construction in Midtown has been these last several years, but there is a precedent for this as its clone, which was built about ten years ago, sits across the street. Not the most prettiest design facade wise, but I'll take it.

Mystery Building!*
Mysterious! Sometime around August I noticed this little two storey on 3rd Avenue rise from what was previously just an empty lot across the street from the McKinley Apartment buildings. From the looks of it, it appears it will be either an office, or some sort of retail. I'm hoping retail. The block across the street has got to be the most densely populated in the state of Alaska (don't quote me on that... I might get a correction from Juneau..). Combine the two buildings across the street and you have 18 floors worth of residential units. And there's more residential in other nearby blocks too. Residents in the area have a couple restaurants (La Cabana, Kodiak Cafe) along with a laundromat, which really helps, in walking distance. But what about a grocery store? or a bank? A huge dilemma for downtowns across America that are not New York or San Francisco is that they often lack such basic needs. Boutique shoe stores, hipster coffee shops, and art galleries are nice, but some basic infrastructure is also needed if residents are to be brought in to develop a lively sustainable downtown that doesn't become a ghost town at 6 in the evening. But I digress. Hopefully this building will be leased for retail. We'll see.

*[edit] Thanks to a reader, it has been clarified that this will in fact be the new home for the Downtown Soup Kitchen. Okay, not what I was hoping for, but I'll easily take this over nothing. Here's a Flickr photostream dedicated to the project (check out their current building compared to their future digs... what a change!)

Loussac Place
I don't know why so many projects are starting ground breaking so late in the summer, but you can chalk up Loussac Place as another project that is guaranteed to see builders work in the bitter cold, Dena'ina Convention Center style. Unlike the other projects this fall, Loussac Place is a redevelopment that will serve the same purpose as its previous incarnation, that being low income residential. However unlike then Loussac Manor, Loussac Place will also provide market-rate housing units in addition to the low-income. The best part is that Loussac Place will hold nearly double the units that Loussac Manor held, going from 62 units to 120 (44 of those being market-rate). The new site will also hold a community center and retain the nearby basketball court while the Salvation Army, which sits next door, will build a recreational center. While people invested in the project tout its great location (no surprise), others may have a differing view. Yes, its location between Midtown and Downtown is great, along with the neighborhood being smack dab in the Chester Creek Greenbelt next to the community garden and sports fields, but lets not forget the roads surrounding it. For all practical purposes, A and C Street are mini freeways with three lanes each in which cars whiz by at 45 to 55 mph on both sides. Thank heaven there is a trail that goes under the roads, but even if I were a parent, I'd be cautious about the little ones. Overall though, I'm very satisfied with this project. These buildings will be arranged in a way similar to the development in Muldoon in which garages and their alleyways are hidden away while neighbors doors will face each other allowing for a more social and safe atmosphere. It will basically run parallel with what is called for in the revamped Title 21 codes. Replacing dumbed down 1960s suburbia with new urbanist development that responds to 21st century problems with 21st century solutions is definitely a step forward for this city.

click to enlarge