It all starts with a name.
Garrett Schoenberger and Paul Simpson, the two partners in Juneau real estate group Alaska Legacy Partners, sat at Heritage Coffee Company’s Glacier Café on Monday morning and talked about their recent purchase of the land under and around Mendenhall Mall Road. (They did not buy the mall, but bought the land it’s on).
The area has always been associated with the mall, but includes various unrelated businesses that have all developed their own identities.
“This park’s never really been defined, either,” Schoenberger said. “It’s ‘the Mendenhall Mall area.’ …So we’re working to help define this, and we’re going to call this area Mendenhall Business Park.”
ALP closed on the sale of the 27-acre Mendenhall Business Park on May 3, they said in an interview Monday. They bought it from the family of Charlie Robinson, who died five years ago. The family has been looking to sell the property since then, Schoenberger and Simpson said.
They were attracted to the area because it’s in a prime location, at the meeting of three major roadways, and there’s still potential to do more. There are a couple lots that could be developed, including a man-made pond near the gas station that they hope to fill in and make into developable land.
Though Schoenberger and Simpson are eyeing a long-term vision for the area, there are a couple substantial changes that are already in motion and could be made in the next couple years.
The City and Borough of Juneau has wanted to put a new transit facility in an open lot next door to the Glacier Café — where there is currently a bus stop — for more than a decade, CBJ Project Manager Lori Sowa said Monday. In August 2018, the city awarded DOWL Engineering a bid to design the transit center, according to CBJ documents.
Sowa said it’s a somewhat complex project, because the city wants to buy the land. They have to figure out where the property lines would be for that property, Sowa said, before they buy it. She said she and others at the city have been working with ALP and that it’s going well, but it’s just a complex process.
The location is ideal for a transit hub, Sowa said, because of its central location. It will be much larger than the Valley’s current transit hub, which is located near the Nugget Mall. It will include a small facility for bus drivers to take breaks and will have a spot where people can park their cars before taking a bus somewhere.
Calling it a transit center, she said, is a little misleading because people automatically picture the downtown transit center, which is a building that includes a police substation and retail space.
“I don’t know that I would compare it to the downtown transit center,” Sowa said. “That one’s an enclosed building. This won’t be an enclosed building. People will still be protected by the weather, but we’re not proposing to build a building.”
Next door to that property, the Heritage location is also set to go through major changes. It’s currently in the design phase for a new building, Heritage President and CEO Amy Knight said via email.
The new building will have two stories, Knight said, and might have an outdoor patio area too. Knight said she hopes to start construction in 2020.
“The Glacier Café has consistently been one of our busier cafes, and I am excited for the upcoming changes to the area,” Knight said via email. “The Alaska Legacy Partners seem to have a lot of fresh ideas that I believe will help revitalize the neighborhood.”
Schoenberger and Simpson said it’s an encouraging sign that Heritage and the city are already moving on projects.
“It’s contagious,” Schoenberger said. “When somebody builds a new building or a building gets a facelift, the other property owners see that. The goal is to just take a proactive approach to thinking strategically long-term about, how do we make this park better?”
ALP has purchased the Jetty property in Auke Bay (which will include a brewery and a condominium building) and Legacy Senior Living (which will turn a former city property on Hurlock Avenue into a senior living center), and has closed on all three of these properties in under two years.
The property is assessed at $18 million, and is one of the most valuable properties on the CBJ’s tax roll, according to an ALP press release Monday.
Schoenberger and Simpson, who were both born and raised in Juneau, said that buying this property was a no-brainer.
“Like once in a lifetime do you see a major land lease deal come up for sale,” Simpson said, “so we’re really excited we got to purchase this, and do it in our hometown.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.