Monthly Archives: April 2007

clark middle school rebuild assured

Wow, it’s nice to have something succeed! A lot of people were convinced the bond proposition to fund the Clark Middle School Replacement project would fail at the ballot box in the recent municipal election. But in a rare moment for Anchorage, all of the bond propositions passed. Roads, parks, schools, infrastructure — we said yes to all of it this time.
[We also came down on the wrong side in a statewide advisory vote on whether or not to allow same-sex couples to receive job benefits offered by their partner’s employer — a disgusting outcome, but that’s another story.]
Anyhow… chalk up the success of the Clark bond to a good PR campaign that clarified the state will pay 60 percent of the bill, and that since other ASD obligations are being paid off the Clark bond resulted in no net overall gain in indebtedness. It was felt by many that ballot language has never made this very clear in the past.
So work will begin immediately after school closes for the summer next month. All of the existing, mostly 50+ year old building will be torn down to make way for the new school.
Clark Principal Cessilye Williams told the audience at the April Community Council meeting that the student population will be dispersed over four other Anchorage middle schools — Begich, Wendler, Central and Romig — and that this is possible because the newest school, Begich was recently opened and so the four schools can absorb Clark’s students for two years and still not be overcrowded. Ms. Williams said that every effort will be made to completely integrate the Clark students, so they are not singled out or alienated.
The architect showed early versions of exterior schemes for the new building, with some exterior material samples — polished and unpolished porcelain tile, and heavy duty metal siding with baked-on enamel metallic finish.
It’s all very exciting.

RIP noble’s diner

Noble’s closed for good on March 31st. I was there for the last night and it was both festive and somber. Thanks, Rob and Carolyn for some good times, great meals and support of organic and locally-produced vegetables. I’ll always remember that late night in the fall of ’05 when I sat there with a group of artists and watched a lightning storm play out on the mountains through your tall windows.

april ’07 community council meeting highlights

This one was pretty exciting. There were TV cameras there to cover the “controversy” at John’s Motel and RV Park and the proceedings were part firestorm, part showbiz, part courtroom, part asylum — but mostly pretty civilized.
Some long-term tenants at John’s Motel expressed displeasure at the new management. Tales of raw sewage, evictions, refusals to allow inspections of the premises, a lack of security, and basically deep differences of opinion. A lot of the audience said, it’s essentially a landlord-tenant dispute and there’s nothing the community council could or should do.
Assemblymember Tesche gave a report. His main priorities for Mt View are the branch library and a bank branch. Sol Gerstenfeld asked Tesche why Fire Station No. 3 doesn’t seem to be a high priority in Fire Dept. renovation planning?
There will be a Youth Job Fair on April 20th at the Boys and Girls Club gymnasium.
Scott Kohlhaas will coordinate Mt View Neighborhood Cleanup again this year. It takes place April 29-May 5th. Food donations and volunteers are still needed. Richard Garcia will not be participating due to illness.
Weed and Seed is helping coordinate the cleanup and also organizing an experimental program, “Crime-Free Multi-Housing”. They’re looking for an existing multifamily housing complex to base the program in. It’s based on programs that have been deployed successfully elsewhere. Homeward Bound director Melinda Freeman pledged her agency’s assistance to W&S director Mike Guiterrez.
Chan Lyut completed a remodel of a small building along Mt View Drive between Klevin and Park Streets. They will be building a dormitory-style building behind and starting a residential rehabilitation center, similar to Homeward Bound’s program and operation except they will not be dealing with mentally ill and sex offender clientele.
State Dept of Transportation and Public Facilities Project Manager Tom Douherty announced that the team of Wilder Construction, Dowl Engineers, and artist Sheila Wyne were selected to design and construct the $30 million freeway intersection exhange at the corner of Bragaw Street and the Glenn Highway. He said, of the three proposals received their team had “the best technical solution and lowest price”. $25 million had been allocated and he said it looked like they could find the needed extra $5m. Work begins this summer with completion by October 2008. The community — mostly through the efforts of resident activist Claire Noll — fought hard to include substantial artistic treatment of the new overpass/interchange, and are very excited about the involvement of Sheila Wyne.
The Anchorage Urban League is a new organization that is offering assistance to renters and homeowners to pay the deposit for electric utility connections. They will start other assistance programs in the future, with a mission to “mend the social safety net”. Phone 279-6022.
Susanne Fleek-Green with MOA Economic and Community Development announced that work on the reopening of the Mt View Branch Library is proceeding. There has been a branch library co-located with the Clark Middle School library for a few years, but it isn’t used much or well-known. The old library was closed in 1987 along with four other branches by then mayor Tom Fink. The new Mt View library will occupy the same building as the old one. A second phase addition of a 100-seat community room, with additional restrooms and storage is planned. A new parking lot for the library, developed concurrently with the new Clark Middle School adjacent, may also double as a Farmer’s Market, pending negotiations with the farmers. A council resolution in support of the library passed 18-0.
Work on concepts for public art works associated with road improvements to a short section of Mt View Dr is proceeding.
Past MVCC President Paul Palinski presented a resolution to ask the city to not tear down the barrier that blocks the inlet-outlet of North Flower Street at Mt View Dr. Installed in concert with neighborhood-wide blockers, chokers and diverters in 2001, after an exhaustive collaborative design discussion, the street changes are not without their detractors, but most agree they have led to positive change by not allowing drug dealers to flow effortlessly in and out of our streets. The project was initially spearheaded by activist Allen Kemplen, a former state legislator who oversaw a similar project in Anchorage’s Fairview neighborhood a couple years earlier. The resolution passed 14-3.

multidisciplinary arts center: down but not out

It is looking increasingly likely that the land occupied by the fledgling Trailer Arts Center will be sold to the developer of the adjacent strip mall and the buildings will be razed to make way for more low-scale mall “pads” — on the scale of a small bank branch, fast food restaurant or gas station — that are envisioned for that section of Mt. View Dr., up on a bluff above the new mall.
This was made known last month [to the group of artists and directors of the small organization that have been planning the arts center and operating it in its initial form] by Carol Gore, director of Cook Inlet Housing Authority, acting as an emissary on behalf of the Anchorage Community Land Trust, current owner of the building. Trailer Arts have staged critically acclaimed exhibits and performances for more than a year now, and leased studio space to various artists.
It seemed in the past that the Land Trust [ACLT] was an advocate for the neighborhood’s interests, but their lack of advocacy on behalf of the arts center is troubling. In an earlier meeting with staff and executives of the Rasmuson Foundation [Rasmuson has been a past supporter of both ACLT and Trailer Arts] it seemed like the neighborhood was being heard about how much we value the arts center and all the good it’s doing in raising out image and profile — not to mention the future benefits if it’s given a chance to flower and grow.
But ACLT is being torn in several different directions. Municipal Light and Power, one of two electric utilities in Anchorage recently became a major tenant of the new mall’s office building and they are seen as a major force behind the removal of Trailer Arts, partly to gain a more convenient driveway to their parking lot and also to build a detached Customer Service kiosk along Mt View Drive where Trailer Arts now stands.
ACLT’s Board of Directors has been reluctnat to offer any details of the current negotiations, or pave the way for the neighborhood to help influence the agency’s direction and choices. Mt. View Community Council President Hugh Wade has been pushing them hard to admit a neighborhood resident as a member of their board, but has not been successful. ACLT is a major landholder and the land purchases and swaps they make end up deciding how the neighborhood will develop in the future. Angela Jimenez, an ACLT board member and Mt View business owner [and a resident for many years until recently] argued that she is providing an effective local voice, and chastized Hugh and I for efforts to gain representation — by offering that old canard that “the Community Council doesn’t really represent the Mt View neighborhood”. And by stressing that secrecy and confidentiality are essential in the real estate deals that ACLT is pursuing.
That argument was particularly troubling to me, because ACLT receives substantial municipal funding, and the land trades have been done with full consultation and awareness of a variety of municipal government employees and agencies. So to me they fail to make a convincing case that transparency and public oversight are not appropriate. In the case of Trailer Arts, the previous owners sold the property for less than market value with the specific understanding that they were contributing to the development of an arts center.
If ACLT fails to protect Trailer Arts Center, and fails to advocate effectively for the neighborhood’s arts and cultural district ambitions, the experiment here will largely be over.