Downtown Juneau is poised to undergo big changes in the coming years as Huna Totem Corp. ramps up its plans to develop a new pier and cruise terminal.
Huna Totem president and CEO Russel Dick and marketing director Mickey Richardson spoke at the City and Borough of Juneau’s Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night to give the city an update on the Alaska Native corporation’s concept designs and plans to develop a downtown waterfront pier and cruise terminal after being donated the 2.9 acres property by the Norwegian Cruise Line in late August.
“We’re excited to take this on,” Dick said.
The project, Àak’w Landing, is set to be located along the Gastineau Channel off the intersection of Whittier Street and Egan Drive. downtown. The land was originally purchased by NCL in a $20 million bid in 2019, before being given this summer to Huna Totem. According to Dick and Richardson, Huna Totem wasn’t aware that NCL had plans to donate the property to the corporation and said it came as a surprise gift, and the donating process began more than a year ago.
Richardson said the vision behind the development is to highlight Juneau as a “unique place and unique culture” and to “tell the story of the Àak’w people the minute you step off the ship.” He said a major goal of the corporation is to ensure the development is realistic and practical while still fitting with the culture of downtown Juneau.
This project isn’t the corporation’s first time partnering with NCL. In 2018, Huna Totem and NCL entered into an agreement to build a second pier at Icy Strait Point, an addition to its pre-existing port built after the cooperation converted Hoonah’s cannery in 1996.
Some of the features outlined in the update included the construction of a curved trestle skywalk which would move cruise ship visitors toward a new retail/ welcome center which he said will have an emphasis on having “guaranteed year-round vitality.”
The entire development from the port to the welcome center to parking is outlined to be built in three phases, the first phase would include developing the dock and retail/welcome center. Richarson said Huna Totem’s goal is for the terminal and pier to greet the first ships of 2025.
NCL will gain preferential use of the pier once it’s constructed, which means the cruise line will have the right of first refusal for mooring as they schedule their vessels, a process that typically occurs 24-36 months out.
That goal could be subject to change, he said, but noted Huna Totem plans to be aggressive in trying to keep things moving at the planned pace.
Richardson said Huna Totem plans to have the second phase, which includes creating additional retail space and an upper-level plaza, completed by 2026.
Richardson did not give a timeline for the third phase, which would include parking and a “flex space,” which could become one of three options: a conference area, a long-discussed ocean center or apartments. Richardson said the corporation will open discussion with the public on which option the community would most like to see come to Juneau.
Corey Wall, principal architect at Jensen Yorba Wall, Inc, spoke at the Monday night meeting to answer Assembly-asked questions if the port will include shore power.
Jensen Yorba Wall Architects were a part of the design process for the plan, along with Alaska Commercial Contractors and Turnagain Marine.
Wall described shore power as a “difficult project” that the corporation is open to discussing in the future, but dock electrification is not being included in the initial design.
“We want to be ready when dock electrification is ready,” he said. “We know it has to be energy efficient moving forward and it is a big priority.”
But, before the project can fully move forward Huna Totem will need approval from the Assembly for a land deal to lease the city-owned tidelands the corporation plans to use, something CBJ city manager Rorie Watt said could stop the project from moving forward all together.
“If the Assembly doesn’t think it’s in the best interest of the community they can choose to not lease the tide lands, and I think there’s a long way to go before the Assembly is going to approve the project” he said.
Watt said though he is encouraged to see Huna Totems’ eagerness for the project to begin, he emphasized there are a lot of factors, decisions and permits that will factor in before breaking ground and the Monday night update was “just the start of a long process.”
“It’s a really big community decision,” Watt said. “Once you allow a project like this to move forward, you can’t go back.”
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.