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While seismic questions linger, Ship Creek development plans progress

By Kirsten Swann 5:57 PM July 18, 2014

The latest version of the Ship Creek Development Plan features a modern vision for a bustling Anchorage waterfront district, but few details on what it would take to redevelop the unstable, earthquake-prone area.

In a presentation to Anchorage Assembly members Friday afternoon, a representative for international design firm KlingStubbins outlined the three-phase plan that involves extending development across the mudflats to the water’s edge. It would create space for hundreds of new residential units, retail and commercial space and a new urban center built around a proposed Ship Creek Square. The plan’s key design concepts include connecting Downtown Anchorage to  Ship Creek Valley, leveraging the area’s outdoor amenities, fueling economic expansion and creating a new “Gateway to Alaska.”

It calls for a new freshwater marsh, expanded trail system, amphitheater and modern esplanade along Knik Arm.

But according the KlingStubbins, any construction would still require extensive studies to find ways to build out the seismically active mudflats. And with much of the land in question owned by the Alaska Railroad Corporation, Assembly members and municipal planners alike said redevelopment would depend on the railroad’s willingness to play ball. Ultimately, KlingStubbins said, the vision for Anchorage’s waterfront could take generations to realize.

The Assembly seems to be on board.

“Anything that has a little vision is kind of fun,” South Anchorage Assemblywoman Jennifer Johnston said after Friday’s presentation.

Aside from zoning changes, though, she said the Assembly would only play a small part in bringing the plan to fruition — it would depend on a private investment firm working with area landowners to make the new urban center a reality. Assembly Chairman Patrick Flynn had a different way of describing the vision for a new downtown district.

“We have a saying in the consulting business: ‘Your plan is hope, quantified,’” he said.

The Ship Creek plan is up for a public hearing at Tuesday night’s Assembly meeting.


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