Ambitious 20-year plan for downtown Juneau heads to Assembly

Downtown Juneau in January 2024. (Clarise Larson/KTOO)

Picture a downtown Juneau where housing isn’t as cutthroat to find, businesses don’t close down after cruise ships leave and the pressures of tourism don’t feel so heavy.

That sounds ambitious, but those are the priorities of a plan called Blueprint Downtown. Over the past six years, a commission of Juneau residents has examined every aspect of downtown and created a plan to lay the foundation for the next 20 years. 

Betsy Brenneman, a member of the Blueprint committee, explained the concept at a city planning commission meeting last week. 

“The intent was to nurture the preservation, restoration and revitalization of downtown,” she said.  

Brenneman described it as a vision that could guide everyone from the city government to local businesses in their decision-making.

The plan addresses priorities like housing growth, year-round business vitality and tourism management. It recommends things like revising zoning regulations, increasing public safety measures and completing the Seawalk along the downtown waterfront. 

Some planning commissioners had questions. Member Mandy Cole said she wonders how much “teeth” the plan would have to move the needle on issues like the housing shortage. 

“We’ve done many things to sweeten the pot and still haven’t gotten where we needed to get,” she said. “In my view, this plan is exactly that vehicle for the next three to five years to try and increase housing downtown by various methods.”

Others said they wanted more language in the plan to address short-term rental regulations. 

The commission voted unanimously at the meeting to recommend the Assembly adopt the plan. Ultimately, the Assembly will decide what aspects of the plan go into place and when.

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