The idea of food carts coming to downtown’s Pocket Park moved one step closer to reality Monday.
The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly voted to start a negotiation process with David McCasland, the owner of Deckhand Dave’s food cart, to work out a short-term lease for McCasland to put a food court in Gunakadeit Park (also known as Pocket Park).
McCasland’s long-term vision is to rent or own the whole area, including the former spot of the Gastineau Apartments, but he said after Monday’s CBJ Assembly meeting that this is a good starting point.
“This is, I guess, just a stepping stone toward something greater,” McCasland said. “This is only a small part of the project. At least it’s going in the right direction and hopefully it keeps going.”
McCasland applied to the city this summer to purchase the property, stating that Pocket Park can provide a space for food carts to go if they no longer have a place when the property next to the downtown library (known as the Archipelago Lot) is redone. Morris Communications (the former owner of the Empire) owns the majority of the Archipelago Lot property. CBJ’s Docks and Harbors Department has developed a plan for the property that includes space for food carts, an expansion of the USS Juneau Memorial, retail spaces and more.
Assembly member Wade Bryson pointed out that the development plans for the Archipelago Lot haven’t been approved by the Assembly yet, so Deckhand Dave’s moving elsewhere is putting the cart in front of the horse.
Multiple CBJ committees agreed that a short-term lease is a more attractive option for the city. City Manager Rorie Watt told the Empire in October that he would like to see a package deal where Pocket Park and the former Gastineau Apartments land end up being sold to a developer who puts housing on the property.
The city just settled a lawsuit with Kathleen Barrett (the owner of Gastineau Apartments, LLC) for $1.5 million. Barrett is working through Dave d’Amato, who makes legal decisions for her, to sell the property. Much of d’Amato’s time right now is taken up by repairing the Bergmann Hotel and the 401 Harris Street property that Barrett owns and that were recently vacated. Both properties had drawn considerable police attention due to parking violations and suspected drug activity in recent years.
McCasland and Watt have both said that they have talked with d’Amato and Barrett but it’s been hard to reach any kind of agreement with them so busy with the other properties.
At Pocket Park, McCasland said Monday, there would be room for his food cart and for the Crepe Escape food cart.
Not all of the Assembly members agreed that the city should start negotiating for a short-term lease. Assembly members Mary Becker, Bryson (who owns nearby Subway) and Loren Jones voted against it. Jones said that to serve food on CBJ property, an applicant has to provide infrastructure such as water and bathrooms, and it’s going to be costly for McCasland to do that.
“I doubt that on a year-to-year lease he’d be willing to put in the kind of money for the infrastructure that would be required by us and the other businesses surrounding it,” Jones said.
McCasland said after the meeting that he’d be willing to install that kind of infrastructure if he ends up working out a lease with the city. Watt will head up the lease negotiations for the city.
Another lease negotiation
The Assembly members unanimously agreed to start negotiations with Juneau Composts! to work out a lease for the waste disposal company at the gravel pit near Home Depot in Lemon Creek.
Juneau Composts! owner Lisa Daugherty applied this summer to lease the land so she could move the business to a more central location. Her current operation is about 25 miles out the road. Composting is the process of breaking down organic matter such as yard waste or food waste into soil, and Daugherty told the Empire last month that she picks up waste from about 140 people and eight businesses.
One of the main aims of composting, Daugherty explained, is trying to divert waste from Juneau’s landfill, which is quickly filling up. Capitol Disposal Landfill Manager Eric Vance told the Empire in October that the landfill is likely to be full in about 20-23 years unless the city finds ways to divert waste elsewhere.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.