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By Dan Rudy 

Waterfront master plan nears final stage


Submitted Illustration

An artist's rendering of a proposed pier and net-mending shed, coming off from the Nolan Center property and acting as a centerpiece for Wrangell's future waterfront. At current construction rates, the addition was projected to cost $2.3 million.

The next phase of Wrangell's waterfront master plan came together at a pair of meetings Feb. 23 and 25. Three conceptual plans were presented to residents by the design team, based on feedback it received on eight proposals presented in January.

Working with City and Borough officials, the team was comprised of Chris Mertl with Corvus Design, James Bibb of North Wind Architects, Dick Somerville of PND Engineers and Meilani Schijvens of Rain Coast Data.

"We're mostly the team that was involved in your downtown revitalization plan," said Mertl.

At the last meeting, residents participating in the planning sessions gauged different takes on how best to develop a 2.5-acre fill area following Campbell Drive between the City Dock and Marine Service Center.

"The biggest comment was 'get the barge company out of here," Mertl told those attending Monday's meeting. Among the most popularly received features were expansions to the boatyard, additional green space, some sort of dock or pier and a net repair shed similar to one in Sitka.

"Sitka, I think, did it very well," said Bibb. Their 6,000 square-foot shed allows visitors to mingle with local anglers, and also serves a variety of multiuse functions.

"It's a whole range of ideas that come together to make these master plans happen," Mertl explained. "What we did is distilled those ideas."

Phase one of the first concept would see landscaping along the waterfront with a "heritage walk" skirting around the barge yard, which would be left as is. Partial fill between the MSC and Nolan Center would be shared seasonal space, for boat storage during the winter and recreational use during the tourist season. A net shed similar to that in Sitka would also be added to the fill area.

Phase two would see the removal of the barge yard, replacing it with parking spaces and small commercial opportunities, and adding an elevated fishing pier.

"It needs to be something elevated and permanent," Mertl explained. "It's something the community asked for."

Portions of Campbell Drive would also be reclaimed, converted into additional green space.

Concept Two would start by expanding the barge area by two acres instead, still incorporating the waterfront walk skirting its edge and improving the path alongside Campbell. An observation area and interpretive signage would also be added by the MSC.

Phase two would see the expanded barge yard replaced with a gateway park site, with a more natural access beach along a reduced-width Campbell. Additional fill would be added around MSC and the Nolan Center, which would be shared use as in the previous scenario. A seasonal vessel float would also be added alongside this fill.

The third concept's first phase would focus on expanding the boatyard for year-round usage.

"It's pretty significant. This gives us 2.7 acres," said Mertl. The approach would fill out to where the old mill dock currently sits, and would have that wooden structure replaced with a reinforced sheet pile wall filled in with 185,000 cubic yards of shot rock.

"In terms of economic opportunity this is the one that's going to provide you with the most," Mertl added.

In addition, Concept Three would also see the eventual replacement of the barge yard with a gateway park and small commercial properties.

Because this plan would be broader in scope than originally permitted for, the intertidal fill permit the Harbor Department secured from the Army Corps of Engineers in 2007 would have to be revised, which could be difficult.

"It'll take some time," Somerville said. Already extended twice, the permit is only good for two more years before it requires another extension.

But time and red tape were less daunting than the three plans' projected costs turned out to be.

"I think now is the perfect time to have this discussion," Mertl told the audience, sooner rather than later on.

"We have a fair idea what these things cost," said Somerville. He had used costs from comparable projects in determining his estimations.

For Concept One it would cost $2.5 million for the fill and armor rock, $1.1 million for the vertical seawall, $1 million to demolish the barge yard and Campbell Drive and $1.3 million for the heritage walk. Construction costs in all total $11.7 million for the various features, with 15 percent contingency and engineering costs bringing the concept to a total of $15.5 million.

Concept Two was similarly figured, with construction estimated at $11 million and total costs at $14.7 million. Being the most ambitious, Concept Three was by far the most expensive as well.

"This one costs some real money," said Somerville. Also the most popular of the three, residents were dismayed to find out the plan would cost $35 million as presented. Because of the greater depth of the expanded fill area, the most significant cost would be the sheet pile wall and shot rock fill, together coming to $13.3 million.

As a comparison, Harbormaster Greg Meissner said the MSC's current five-acre lot cost $17 million to develop. With his department currently looking at replacing the floats at Shoemaker Bay and the state currently looking at foregoing capital improvement projects as it tackles a multibillion dollar deficit, he added it would be quite difficult to raise cash for such an expansion.

After collecting public input and discussing options with Wrangell officials and stakeholders after the meeting and the following day, the planning team returned Wednesday evening with its revised master plan.

"We spent a lot of time talking with everybody," Mertl explained. Taking feedback from the three plans presented, the team came back with a single master plan split into four phases. "We've broken them into much easier digestible pieces."

Taking a more modest look at adding to the boatyard, the first phase of this new plan would create a three-quarter acre fill for year-round industrial usage. This new space would be able to accommodate between 24 and 26 boats.

The projected cost of this phase would be $2 million, with much of the savings derived from the more reasonable scale of the fill area.

Gauging rental fees, service rates and other associable costs, Schijvens projects an annual economic impact of $7,000 per boat, or $175,000 in all. At that rate, the addition would pay for itself in about 12 years.

"It's a pretty significant addition," Mertl said. The added yard would be screened by fencing, and the new spaces would free up other parts of the yard, either for more storage or the addition of new vendors.

Phase two would narrow Campbell Drive by eight feet, improving pedestrian access and adding boardwalk and a stairway beach access. This portion would cost about $2.3 million.

The third phase would add a pier abutting the MSC fill, with wooden decking and a 4,000 square-foot net shed. This could also be used for fishing, boat moorage, and even wedding receptions.

"It's going to create a focal point on the waterfront," Mertl said. In all, this portion would cost about $2.3 million as well.

Furthest afield, the fourth phase would see the site at

6-mile hypothetically developed and the barge companies relocated. Portions of Campbell would be reclaimed and

the area used for additional

parking, green space and

small-scale commercial

Submitted Illustration

This diagram shows phase three of the proposed waterfront development master plan, presented to Wrangell residents at an evening meeting Feb. 28. Adding to the Marine Service Center, the plan would also add a multiuse pier, improved pedestrian surfaces and an elevated heritage walk along the waterfront, features all favored by participants at previous planning sessions.

opportunities, for about $2.2 million.

Together with mobilization and construction costs, the

unified plan would amount to $14.5 million. Looking at

possible effects the beautified waterfront would have on local tourism and commerce, Schijvens projects an added 20 jobs and economic impact of $1.2 million each year would result. The projection makes some assumptions, such as

currently unoccupied storefronts in town being in use by the time the project was completed.

Another public meeting is planned, presenting a final preferred master plan and report for public review and followed by a meeting with the Borough Assembly.

"We'll be back probably toward the end of April," Mertl explained. Afterward, the master plan becomes a tool for pursuing grant money to accomplish different portions of the development project.

The team is still gathering feedback on the design. Sketches and descriptions are available for review at http://wrangellwaterfrontmp.blogspot.com/, along with information on how to comment.


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