Willoughby District development update

The Juneau Economic Development Council on Wednesday held a community meeting to provide updates on improvements to the Willoughby District, an ongoing effort between landowners and business leaders to create a downtown district that residents and visitors alike will appreciate. In the coming months, or in some cases years, Juneau can expect to see a variety of changes.

Choose Juneau’s website has launched (choosejuneau.org), and with its variety of partners, the mission is united: to showcase all that the capital city has to offer and to attract professionals to come and make this city home.

The Main Street program continues to look into how it can improve downtown’s economic vitality. To be successful, the program encourages everyone to participate, from city officials, business owners and other community members. A program facilitator will come by on Nov. 1-2.

Duff Mitchell of Juneau District Heating hopes to introduce Juneau to a sea water pump system, which he says will be one of the first ones in North America in use. This new kind of heating technology, which he dubs as “clean, sustainable and smart” is supposed to be non-flammable, non-toxic and the system to heat a house is about the size of a suitcase. People will be able to use their smart phones to monitor how efficient their heating device is by real-time updates. Pipe will be laid in 2017.

Michele Elfers, an engineer for the City and Borough of Juneau, reported that the city would be revisiting the 2015 parking study, conducted by a consultant group which looked at where the city could provide more parking. Parking, as always in downtown, is a “hot topic” issue, and Elfers said it will probably become more so when the new Arts Complex and Ocean Center are built which will demand more parking space. The study suggested a partnership between state, federal and private lands since many of these areas share a need for more parking, which is an option the city will explore in the coming months.

One way the parking problem may see relief is through Zip Car, said Brian Holst of the JEDC. Michael Uribe, the regional vice president of the car sharing service, may visit Juneau this fall to see about starting up a branch in Juneau if there is enough interest. If community members are interested in this service, they are asked to express their interest so the JEDC and Zip Car knows the option is worth exploring.

For the Juneau Ocean Center, Bob Janes spoke about how the city is still looking into creating a sea walk running from the cruise ship docks to where the whale statue is (and where later the Juneau Ocean Center will also be). He shared possible site plans, which include a cruise ship passenger hub at the center, which will hopefully relieve some of the congestion from the other docks.

The old downtown Blockbuster building on Glacier Avenue has been under construction. Haus Alaska purchased the building, tore it down and come Oct. 1, will open the new apartments for rent. These upscale apartments are marketed toward professionals. Pets are negotiable. More details such as the amenities, space and price can be found through their Facebook page.

For more information on the Willoughby District improvements, go to jedc.org/Willoughby.

• Contact Clara Miller at 523-2243 or at clara.miller@juneauempire.com.

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