The possibility of more parking spots in downtown Juneau took a step toward reality at last night’s Assembly meeting.
The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly passed an ordinance unopposed Monday night that approved the appropriation of $5 million — funded via the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development — to go toward partially funding the planning and construction of additional levels of parking above the North State Office Building parking garage located on Willoughby Avenue.
The current parking garage where the addition will be made is only open for use by state employees c, but according to Rorie Watt, CBJ city manager, the OK’d funding and development planning could open the door for that to change.
“Currently it’s only open to state employees, but it’s an open question what the future might be,” he said. “The city’s perspective is surface parking lots are a bad use of land and while parking garages are expensive, that lets other things be built on those.”
He said it is difficult to pinpoint the time and cost that a project of this scale will take, and said it will likely come down to how many levels of parking will be “affordable” with the amount of funding the project receives.
“Everybody wants good parking, but nobody wants to pay for good parking,” Watt said.
The potential of an additional $5 million could also be added to the project as well if the temporary 1% sales tax extension that is set to appear on the ballot for this year’s municipal election passes. Watt said the additional funding would speed up and could potentially expand the development.
“It could grow quite a bit from that $10 million, or we could be figuring out how to fit the budget,” he said.
He said, for now, the $5 million from the DCCED is just the first step toward a long and expensive process to expand the parking at this facility, which is currently in “tough repair” and is eroding.
“It’s a part of the long game of getting denser development downtown and it’s a crazy amount of money but that’s what it takes to have a denser urban area,” Watt said. “We’re looking for optimal urban development and it sort of fits into a lot of the things that we talk about for downtown.”
The planning will begin shortly, said Watt, but it will be a “very long” process that currently has a lot of unknowns.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.