Despite land challenges, Mountain View construction continues

In Mountain View, developers can occasionally find more than meets the eye.

A parking lot expansion project at the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature hit a snag last month when contractors ran into unexpected concrete beneath the surface of the lot. Executive Director Katch Bacheller said it will take more digging — and more money — to complete the project. Monday, contractors extended the excavation from the parking lot into the northbound lane of N. Bragaw Street.

Next door to the museum, the new Credit Union 1 location was completed only after builders removed waste left over from a gas station that once stood on the same corner. Site issues like subsurface concrete or contamination are not uncommon, according to local landowners.

But despite occasional underground obstacles, new projects continue to break ground around Mountain View.

“I think it ultimately means that the neighborhood has become lucrative for investors and developers who see it as a profitable opportunity,” said Kirk Rose, community development manager at the Anchorage Community Land Trust.

The land issues are tied to Mountain View’s roots as one of Anchorage’s first neighborhoods. Most lots were once occupied by something else. In some cases, previous owners left behind contaminants like buried fuel tanks. The environmental standards of the 1940s don’t always align with today’s regulations, Rose wrote in a Friday email, and site cleanup could be a costly proposition for potential developers.

Still — slowly but surely — construction projects continue to pop up throughout the neighborhood.

Cook Inlet Housing Authority has announced plans to develop nine lots along Richmond Avenue this summer, and the nonprofit is currently building several duplexes on a Price Street lot across from New Hope Baptist Church. Several weeks ago, Special Olympics Alaska held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its newly completed Sports, Health and Wellness Center on Mountain View Drive. Bass Pro Shops continues construction on a 100,000-square-foot store in Glenn Square, and it’s been less than four years since the neighborhood’s only bank opened its branch on the corner of Mountain View Drive and N. Bragaw Street.

Chrissy Bell, a senior communications manager at Credit Union 1, said toxic waste from a former Union 76 gas station had to be removed to Environmental Protection Agency standards before construction at the Mountain View branch could move forward. Bell said the bank worked with ACLT throughout the cleanup process.

Rose said partnerships like the one between the land trust and the bank helped overcome the occasional environmental hurdles and pave the way for redevelopment or new construction.

“Nonprofits in the real estate business sometimes have access to grants and other tools that allocate funds for environmental remediation,” Rose wrote.

He said it allows nonprofits to work with other organizations to develop properties that might not otherwise pencil out. When businesses looking to build can overcome possible environmental hurdles, the investments seem to pay off.

According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, there are about a dozen active contaminated sites left throughout Mountain View. More than a dozen have already been cleaned. The Mountain View Service Center is one of those sites.

Once contaminated by a 1950s-era heating oil tank, the land has since been cleaned and is now home to a handful of nonprofits and community development organizations, including the land trust. Glenn Square, also a former contaminated site, is slowly attracting new businesses like Bass Pro Shops and Kriner’s Burgers & Pies. Other businesses are also following suit and setting up shop in the area.

At the Sports, Health & Wellness Center, Special Olympics Alaska President Jim Balamaci said his organization couldn’t have picked a better spot to build.

“There’s not a better place in the world to be than Mountain View,” Balamaci said after the building first opened its doors in April.

The growth doesn’t happen overnight, Rose said. It takes dedication and cooperation between local developers, community leaders, residents and government. But it’s happening.

Beyond intermittent site challenges, businesses are uncovering another facet of building in Mountain View — opportunity.

“It’s a chance to join a community of great families and partners and be part of some amazing momentum,” Rose wrote. “It’s a chance to create a successful business venture and make a living.”

 

 

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