A conceptual drawing shows a possible use for Norwegian Cruise Line’s property on Egan Drive. This drawing shows the property with NCL’s largest ship, the Bliss, shown for scale. (Courtesy Image / MRV Architects)

A conceptual drawing shows a possible use for Norwegian Cruise Line’s property on Egan Drive. This drawing shows the property with NCL’s largest ship, the Bliss, shown for scale. (Courtesy Image / MRV Architects)

New cruise ship dock project moves ahead

Memorandum of understanding signed with proposed Alaska Ocean Center.

Plans for a new cruise ship dock are steaming ahead.

Norwegian Cruise Line continues to seek community input on its plans to build a new cruise ship dock on its waterfront property on Egan Drive through a Zoom-based meeting Thursday night.

Sustainability, the City and Borough of Juneau’s approval process, financial arrangements and year-round community access to the site were key topics on the call in which cruise line representatives local officials, and architects from MRV Architects provided a process update and answered questions submitted by chat.

While plans had not changed substantially from the December meeting, officials shared a few important updates, including that NCL has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Alaska Ocean Center to house the proposed center as part of the development.

“We think the Alaska Ocean Center is a great use of the property,” said Howard Sherman, executive vice president of onboard revenue and destination services for NCL, at the meeting.

“We want to pull in, plug into hydropower and give our people a full day in Juneau,” he said. Beyond those goals, Sherman said he and NCL want the dock to benefit Juneau.

Bob Janes, interim director of the Alaska Ocean Center, shared his enthusiasm during the meeting.

“We could not do this without the strength that NCL brings. This ocean center is all about making the world aware of the oceans that encompass Alaska,” he said in the meeting. He added that the ocean-driven blue economy is important for Alaska because of fishing, transport and tourism.

Janes said that a global fundraising effort to build the center would begin soon.

Sustainability and green construction

NCL representatives discussed their plan to limit the environmental impact of construction and the ongoing use of the dock.

“We want to make sure we don’t have a big environmental footprint,” said Alicia Cuervo, vice president of construction for NCL. She said she has experience revitalizing different areas and uses green construction techniques, such as recycling waste and reusing materials.

“When approaching this project, I asked myself: ‘How can we make this alive year-round, create an economic engine and use cool new technology to reduce our environmental impact?’” she said.

She noted that additional goals include relieving congestion, showcasing the Native community and arts integration.

“We follow a process to look at impacts together,” she said. “We do environmentally sensitive construction. We recycle. We reuse. We get the best engineers.”

City approval process

Rorie Watt, CBJ city manager, provided an overview of the city’s process to review plans for the site and move forward.

“The city wears a lot of hats in this project. As this project moves forward, the public will have plenty of opportunities to comment. We are trying to lay out a process that will be helpful,” he said.

Watt noted that beyond being the body able to approve the plans, the city is connected to the project in additional ways, such as being a landowner to adjacent areas, the developer of a comprehensive plan for the waterfront and the taxing authority for the site.

According to Watt, the first step is to amend the waterfront plan developed in 2004. The plan, which generated controversy at the time, did not include a large cruise ship dock for the site.

Watt suggested opening the discussion about the plan with an eye toward the future.

“We think the better debate is asking if a dock at this location is in the best interest of the community,” he said, adding that there will be several discussions along the way. “There’s a long way to go in the city process,” he said.

Financial questions

When asked, Sherman said that NCL is not seeking government subsidies to develop the site.

“We don’t expect any city, state or federal money for this project. We aren’t looking for state, federal or municipal aid,” he said. He also said that no head tax money would be used on the project.

“We have cash on hand, and cruise lines generate a lot of cash quickly when they are operating,” Sherman said.

He added that cruises are beginning to operate again worldwide and that he expects more to return in the third quarter.

• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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