Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mixed use site gets a parking lot

Turnagain Crossing

[you can see a news report on this here]
For those not familiar, in 2013 construction started on the corner of Turnagain Drive and Northern Lights in West Anchorage on a mixed use site known as Turnagain Crossing. Yes, I did write "mixed use site". It's not often you hear about such developments taking place in this city, but the developers behind Turnagain Crossing managed to jump through all sorts of hoops and hurdles in order to get their proposal approved by the city. They persevered and we now have a wonderful compact site that houses the Kaladi owned Rustic Goat Restaurant along with a handful of condo units nearby. I wouldn't actually say its so much "mixed use" as its merely two buildings of different uses that just happen to be sitting on the same lot. Mixed use is a term usually given to a single building that has different uses within that building (ie restaurant, hotel, office, all in one). For that, Anchorage actually does have a handful of such buildings. But Turnagain Crossing nonetheless has been given that label by the media due to its unique configuration that required changing the zoning of the empty lot from single use to multi-use and all the hassle that came with it. What's ground breaking is that the minimum parking requirements that developers are ordinarily obligated to follow were waived for this site. This is not too uncommon in the Lower 48 as urban planning continues its shift toward focusing on livability and walkability as opposed to automobile socialism. The idea was that this site wouldn't attract so many cars anyways as the development is suppose to cater to just the neighborhood, much like Fireweed Bakery in Downtown's South Addition neighborhood.

Sadly things have not proven to be as idealistic as expected. The popularity of the Rustic Goat, again intended as a corner neighborhood pub-like place, has meant that the streets of the surrounding neighborhood have been filled with cars parallel parking in what is already a narrow street that has no sidewalks. I live near it and every time I drive past it in the evening, I see the pack of cars and cringe knowing that some in the Assembly may be thinking "see, we gave this experiment a chance and it didn't work". In July the Assembly gave the developers the green light to go ahead and build a 28 space parking lot across the street on city park land. Many neighbors however were outraged at the lack of notice with regards to there being a discussion about this without their input. As a result the Assembly rescheduled its discussion and re-took a vote this past Tuesday after hearing from the testimonies of many area residents. Again, the Assembly gave the go ahead for the construction of a parking lot with the owners paying $8,000 per month to the city. In the end, it's sad that park land had to be taken away for a parking lot, but I'm not surprised. Seeing the parking situation, I knew something had to give.

At least we know the folks in the condo units next door won't have an issue with parking at the restaurant.