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By Dan Rudy 

Wrangell waterfront master plan given final go-ahead


Submitted Illustration

The fourth and final phase of Wrangell's waterfront master plan unveiled Tuesday would see some tremendous changes to the business district's shoreline, perhaps decades in the future. Campbell Drive and the barge yard would be removed replaced by green space, commercial buildings and parking and a shared extension between the Marine Service Center and Nolan Center would feature a large timber pier and interpretive shelter.

Borough Assembly members were presented the final form of Wrangell's waterfront master plan before their Tuesday evening meeting. The plan is the product of progressive public discussions and meetings in January, February and March.

The core concept is to fill the 2.5-acre area located between the barge and boat yards parallel to Campbell Drive, which the Harbor Department obtained a permit to develop from the Army Corps of Engineers in 2007. Beyond that, the master plan looks ahead at developing the entirety of Wrangell's in-town waterfront.

Eight proposals were presented in January, which were winnowed down in subsequent meetings based on public input. Working with city officials, the planning team was comprised of Corvus Design, PND Engineers, North Wind Architects and Rain Coast Data.

The concept presented by architect Chris Mertl of Corvus Design on Tuesday built upon those presented in March and was broken into four phases.

Phase one would see a partial fill of 1.2 acres between the Nolan Center and Marine Service Center, which would then be usable by the yard for storing 25 boats or operating 10 service stalls.

"This is seen as an immediate next step," Mertl said, based on information gathered from the public. The step would also be the biggest, costing $4.76 million to complete.

Phase two would add a raised heritage walk skirting around the barge yard and connecting the dock with the Nolan Center. Landscaping would see the reduction of Campbell Drive's width and some stair access to reclaimed beachfront. Drop-down partitions would be set up where the walk intersects with the barge ramp, so foot traffic could be halted during work projects.

"Obviously when there is a barge it is an active area," Mertl explained. He felt the proxminity to yard activity would be a positive experience for most visitors, preserving Wrangell's "working waterfront" personality.

"You're keeping your authentic appeal," he said.

Similarly, in phase three the plan calls for construction of a large wooden pier near the Nolan Center, abutting the first-phase addition. A multipurpose net-repair shed and view of the boatyard would join the waterfront's recreational and industrial elements, creating a character unique to Wrangell.

"It really becomes the focal point along the waterfront," he said. The two phases would cost $3.7 million and $2.8 million, respectively.

The fourth and final phase calls for transplantation of the barge yard elsewhere and removal of Campbell, replacing them with a gateway park and possibly small-scale commercial property. This distant goal of the plan could take decades to realize, and in current estimates would cost about $4 million.

Together, the four phases would cost $14.7 million to complete, but an economic analysis compiled by Rain Coast Data estimated an annual $1.2 million return through added economic activity and tourism.

"There is a decent amount of return to the investment over time," Mertl said. Cost estimates were prepared by PND, based on real

projects around the region.

The plan was approved by the Assembly at its meeting following the presentation. It will serve as a blueprint for future development and provide a point of reference later for grant funding applications, similar to the downtown revitalization plan Wrangell commissioned a decade ago.

"This isn't just a master plan," Mertl reminded the Assembly. "One of its goals is to provide the community economic opportunities."

Sketches and descriptions are available for review at http://wrangellwaterfrontmp.blogspot.com/, along with economic data and cost analyses.


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