Norwegian Cruise Line is giving a Juneau waterfront parcel to Huna Totem after buying it for $20M

Part of the Juneau waterfront area known as the subport on Aug. 23, 2022. (Claire Stremple/KTOO)

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings spent $20 million for nearly three acres of prime waterfront property in 2018, beating out the City and Borough and Juneau and other bidders with an offer that was more than five times the appraised value of the land.

Yesterday Norwegian gave that property to Huna Totem Corporation, an Alaska Native corporation tied to Hoonah that’s headquartered in Juneau.

Norwegian shared its ideas for the property in 2020, but it hasn’t been developed yet. Huna Totem plans to work with Juneau-based Goldbelt, Inc. and other Alaska Native corporations to complete the project.

“This is an astonishing gift for Juneau and our Goldbelt shareholders,” said Goldbelt President and CEO McHugh Pierre in a press release. “Giving ownership back to the Tlingit people is a tremendous way to honor the culture of this community.”

Mickey Richardson, Huna Totem’s head of marketing and public relations, said the corporation likes to invest in local projects, and the majority of its shareholders live in Juneau.

“Being locally owned and operated, we hope that the project will reflect the values of the Native people from Juneau and also the community of Juneau,” he said.

The corporation aims to submit plans to local planning officials for a tourism facility and dock by the end of the year. Richardson said the goal is to complete the project for the 2025 cruise season.

Alexandra Pierce, Juneau’s tourism director, says the change is unlikely to lead to an overhaul of Norwegian’s concept.

“We have been told that they’re planning to maintain the core elements as presented to the community: the underground parking, public open space and ocean center,” she said. “But we haven’t seen a revised plan yet.”

Pierce has worked with Norwegian on its plans since the company purchased the property. She said Huna Totem will need to show the Juneau Planning Commission that its plans are consistent with the goals and criteria set forward by the Visitor Industry Task Force.

She says the next step for Huna Totem will be to apply to the Planning Commission for a conditional use permit. That will be the public’s next opportunity to provide comments.

Huna Totem and Goldbelt still need permission from the city to develop and operate in the city-owned tidelands around the property. The Coast Guard and NOAA must also be on board if the project impacts their water access.

Pierce said she’s looking forward to having a definitive answer on what development at the parcel will look like so the city’s own long-range planning can move forward.

“We’re just looking forward to having an answer, yes or no, on this project,” she said. “We have a lot of plans and ideas that hinge on whether or not a fifth cruise ship dock is constructed.”

Norwegian did not immediately respond when KTOO asked why the company gave away land it spent millions to acquire. But in a press release, a Norwegian executive said the company wanted the project to be integrated with the local community and that it became “abundantly clear” that Huna Totem should lead the effort.

Norwegian and Huna Totem have worked together before. This March the companies agreed to develop a dock in Whittier.

[Sign up for Alaska Public Media’s daily newsletter to get our top stories delivered to your inbox.]

Previous articleNOAA publishes blueprint for mariculture research in Alaska
Next articleUp close with spawning salmon: University of Washington researchers contribute to decades of Bristol Bay data