Ship Creek master plan calls for cruise terminal, train depot on Knik Arm fill

nherz@adn.comJuly 8, 2013 

A new long-range plan for Anchorage's mucky, industrial Ship Creek area would create a new section of downtown that merges retail, residential and entrepreneurial development.

The plan was unveiled Monday at an Anchorage Chamber of Commerce luncheon. It recommends construction of a new cruise ship terminal, a train depot, apartments and an amphitheater on filled-in land in Knik Arm on the northwestern edge of downtown.

It also calls for an indoor marketplace, an REI-type recreation store, and a building to house small businesses along the banks of Ship Creek itself -- which would be linked to the city's existing network of bike paths. Warehouses could be converted to coffee houses, said Michael Stevenson, an architect at KlingStubbins, the design firm hired by the city to devise the plan.

"You've got people on mountain bikes, cross-country skis, coming right through that," he said. "[They] stop, and get a latte or a drink, and keep on going."

The plan, commissioned by the city with $600,000 in state grant money, is intended to give tourists and residents more ways to access the water, said Mayor Dan Sullivan in a phone interview.

"We're a city on a waterfront, with no waterfront," Sullivan said.

For now, though, the plan is at least years, if not decades, from fruition.

And while Stevenson smoothly laid out his vision for the site, along with some eye-catching artist's renderings, there were scant details about how much the plan would cost, or just where the money for it would come from.

"That's the next stage," said Charles Reid, an executive with the real estate firm Boston Global Investors, who joined Stevenson in presenting the plan. "You have to have a vision to price it--and now we have to price it."

The plan unveiled Monday is the latest scheme for Ship Creek's future. Early city administrations and boosters have proposed malls, convention centers and even an aquarium and IMAX theater.

The new model for Ship Creek's redevelopment, Reid said, is a partnership between the city and private investors -- most likely, where public money pays for infrastructure like power and water, and investors fund construction of buildings.

"It has to be where the government will take a risk to put in the horizontal, and then the private developers will put in the vertical," he said.

Sullivan said the city would conduct a study to see how much it would cost to install the necessary infrastructure, likely within the next six months. He said funding could come from local, state or federal coffers.

In this case, the long-range plan calls for reopening the Knik Arm Power Plant using $75 million in private investment, which would take some of the financial pressure off the city.

The new design will go before the Planning and Zoning Commission in the fall, before being integrated into the city's comprehensive plan, Stevenson said.

But even before that, the public will have a chance to weigh in, at an open presentation at the Anchorage Museum, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. There will be a presentation to legislators on Wednesday as well, Sullivan said.

Reach Nathaniel Herz at nherz@adn.com or 257-4311.

 

 

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