Monthly Archives: September 2007

traffic jam!

It was amusing after work tonight to see traffic backed up all along the length of both parts of Mt View Drive. Bragaw St. was closed because of the road work. So all of the people who use the neighborhood as a short cut were delayed. I was biking today. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as flying by hundreds of cars at rush hour on a bicycle. I suppose if I’d been driving I would have been a little hacked off…

the future of the multidisciplinary arts center

Bruce Farnsworth recently announced a “summit” of sorts, to take place next month sometime wherein the Loose Affiliation of Local Artists and the board of directors of the Trailer Arts Center will attempt in a moderated public forum to ascertain the arts center’s future by asking:
–what was the Anchorage Community Land Trust supposed to be doing in regards to creation of an Arts and Cultural District in Mt. View?; and
–what is the future of the Anchorage Community Land Trust’s involvement/sponsorhsip in creation of the MAC?
The larger question, of course: is the Arts and Cultural District dead in the water? But for the continuing presence of the Natural History Museum in the neighborhood, the answer appears to be yes.
Forget for now that ACLT seriosuly dropped the ball on the entire initiative. The turmoil within that organization is well known, perhaps definitively depicted by MV Community Council president Hugh Wade’s months-long crusade to gain a neighborhood presence and voice in the affairs of the ACLT board. While ACLT failed to implement the vision, there were reasons for it that extend up the chain of power and influence.
The one player in the game with a chance to make a difference is the Rasmuson Foundation. Indeed, Rasmuson in cooperation with the Municipality set up ACLT in the first place for the express purpose of pursuit of the ACD. At least this is my understanding — perhaps this will be clarified at the “summit”. I could hardly imagine a project more worthy of funding than the MAC, or more in line with Rasmuson’s mission.
So why hasn’t Rasmuson funded the project? I wish I knew. LALA and TAC have gone way beyond due diligence and have the planning documents and concept reports to prove it. The neighborhood and its Community Council have indicated approval in writing several times.
I’ve been personally involved in TAC’s planning and progamming effort for the former Mobile Trailer Supply property and can vouch for the equivalent of thousands of dollars of labor that have gone into imagining the center’s potential future programs, facilities and operations.
ACLT’s interactions with TAC might be characterized as sporadically supportive or intermittent. At one point, a Juneau architect was hired by Rasmuson to draw a conceptual design. While he was given a construction cost budget, he was not informed of even the existence of the TAC or any of its planning efforts. Had Bruce Farnsworth not intervened, the Juneau architect’s work would have been done in a vacuum.
City Hall’s commitment to the MV ACD has been continuously dialed down. Intially supportive, the party line was revised to “well, we will place artistic pieces in the streetscape, rather than actual arts institutions” down to “well, ah, maybe the sidewalks, lampposts and trees and shrubs themselves will comprise the artisic statements”. Spoken with all the enthusiasm and good intent one feels toward an estranged spouse in a failed marriage.
At the same time, the Muni during Mayor Begich’s and his predecessor’s administrations has supported millions in expenditures to revitalize the neighborhood — $3 million on the Success By Six Building and Garden Art Park; $8 million on the Community Center/Boys and Girls Clubs; $6 million on the Sadler Building; $60 million plus by Cook Inlet Housing Authority toward various housing projects; several more million on roads; $66 million on Clark Middle School Replacement; who knows how much on the POB Montgomery mall; $30 million on Glenn-Bragaw intersection; and countless other smaller projects by Homeward Bound; Chan Lyut; the Hispanic Cultural Center; Habitat for Humanity; Anchorage Neighborhood Housing Authority; various churches and small businesses.
There’s an element in the city that would view another $7 or $8 million for the MAC as throwing good money after bad. I see the MAC as a linch pin, that coalesces the friction, chaos and dischord that is Mt View and gives voice and identity to continuing social problems and efforts to seed improvements on all fronts. The cost of not building it could mean that all of the aforementioned money was thrown away (if the MAC were to succeed and it evolved as I think it would).
The artists and the neighborhood have done their part. The MAC should be fully funded and construction should commence on the MTS site — or another site in Mt View should be agreed upon and acquired, with construction funding guaranteed. There is no credible reason for not providing funding.
Every time I see or hear something less than desirable around my home — people yelling and arguing; breaking glass; inebriated homeless persons hanging around in parking lots and street corners, or wandering past in the streets and alleys; gunshots in the middle of the night — I wonder how long it will be until the city at large realizes that law enforcement alone will do little to create positive change.
It’s easy to react emotionally to TV news tales of fed-up vigilante residents on midnight patrols in front of their houses. It’s easy to decide that Mt. View has big problems. It’s a lot harder to commit to solutions that may have a huge impact over the coming decades.
It’s extremely frustrating to see a concept that’s ten plus years in the making petering out. I invested in Mt View almost eight years ago, with a lot of faith that the neighborhood’s ambitions would be fruitful and result in a location that my west side and downtown friends admired and envied instead of reviled and ridiculed. I pinned my whole financial future on it, in fact. If the ACD goes down the tubes soon, as I fear it shall — then I’m going to leave. I’m going to cut my losses and head to someplace more enlightened, even though I’ve criticized many others in the past for doing the same thing.

school and road projects in full swing

Lots of changes since I’ve posted here last! The old Clark school was completely annihilated in about a month. At the same time, a couple blocks of houses and four-plexes along Bragaw St. south of the Glenn were uprooted, demolished and moved away. Water line replacement work is happening.

Photo: miscellaneous metal from the old Clark Middle School sits in an Anchorage metals recycling scrap yard.

The foundation for the new Clark school is almost in. Along with the ongoing work on the mall, the entire southwest portion of the neighborhood has been torn apart this summer! Acres that used to be wooded are now visible from a long ways off. At the corner of Bragaw and Glenn, the pedestrian overpass is still there for now, looking out of place in the current desolate moonscape. Looking around, I can visulaize the reworked intersection, and the gleaming new school building. But completion for both is still two years off.