As part of the ongoing capital project planning process, the Pratt hosted a series of three community meetings on November 18, 20 and December 6 to gather input on repurposing possibilities for the current museum building and discussion about the location of the new building. These two issues need to be addressed before the request for proposals for architects can be distributed and schematic design work begins. These three sessions were filled with active discussion by participants who expressed a variety of opinions and suggestions. There was also time allotted for questions and answers about the project.
Repurposing the Existing Building: These discussions produced many ideas for potential uses of the existing facility. Participants were told that the criteria to be used while examining the options include the degree of alignment with the Pratt’s mission and the potential user must be financially self-sustaining. The Pratt can do one capital project (the new building) and cannot take on the expenses of a second full-sized building. Ideas from community members included: Nonprofit office space, theater and performing arts space, Native cultural center, Native art gallery, arts and cultural center, artist studios, convention center, community school, satellite for Native Heritage Center, Arctic Studies Center satellite, space for the Boys and Girls club, science/research center, space for Fireweed Academy, and conversion of the building to a parking garage, greenhouse or boat barn. In the financial sustainability discussion, community members suggested additional ideas for organizations that may have the resources to renovate and maintain the current building: Native corporations; other museums that may want a satellite location; government agencies, such as the Park Service; or the University of Alaska. Groups that do not have a sponsoring organization would need to form a community coalition, or some other kind of entity, to take the project forward and raise the necessary funds.
Location of the New Building: The three general building location options were presented (available here). Option 1 has the new building located in the northwest portion of the Museum property. Main access to the Museum would be from Spruceview Street. Option 2A and 2B shows the new building located in the center of the property, just south of the current shop building. Option 3Aand 3B locates the building between Woodard Creek and Bartlett Street directly south of the current Museum location. Overall, participants favored Options 2 and 3 over Option 1.
Comments on Option 1 included perceived access problems and no view of the building from the street; the building being located too far from the creek; a large impact to the forest trails area; and the large amount of parking lot area that would be viewable from Bartlett Street. It was noted that this option would allow plenty of space for expansion and would have the least street noise.
Option 2 (includes 2A and 2B) locates the building in the center of the property (south of the shop). It was noted that if the current building is repurposed, the new building may not be easily visible from the street. Positive comments on this option included: good parking and access, lower impact on forest trails (than option 1), more room for future expansion (than option 3), more options to “guide” visitors across grounds and into the Museum, and attractive and appealing landscaping possibilities. Negative comments included: The view of the new building may be blocked by parking/boat barn/old building, interfering with the visual impact of the new building, and the large amount of forested area that would have to be cleared to accommodate the building. There is a substantial increase in the amount of parking needed, if the old building is kept, to accommodate the needs of two buildings with active programs.
Option 3 (includes 3A and 3B) shows the new building on a small knoll between Woodard Creek and Bartlett Street directly south of the current museum location. The Homestead Cabin would be moved to a new location on the grounds. Some participants noted that this location may only be viable if the current building is removed or converted to the boat barn (a smaller facility), due to the need to consider space for future expansion of the Museum and the narrowness of the available building area. Positive comments included: good drainage, good street presence, the “wow” factor due to visibility from both Bartlett Street and Pioneer Avenue, and the potential for an unobstructed view of the Bay.
Site Considerations: Discussion in the meetings also included soils, drainage, and the amount of setback needed if the section of Woodard Creek on museum property is day lighted. If the existing building is kept and the Creek is opened up, the back office area would need to be removed to create more distance from the Creek. The impact of street noise was discussed in relation to the quality of experience of visitors, on the grounds and within the buildings. Some participants also seemed to feel that having the boat barn be the first thing that visitors saw as they entered the grounds was not ideal. Access for large RVs, buses and delivery trucks was discussed, along with the need for handicapped parking close to the building. Parking and access on some of the site concept drawings need to be adjusted.
We encourage you to continue send your suggestions though email, mail, or personal visit. We’ll be looking for public input on the repurposing ideas and new building location at least through February 2011. Meanwhile, we will be following up on the repurposing ideas that could meet the outlined criteria of mission alignment and financial sustainability.
Another community meeting is scheduled to be held at the Homer Council on the Arts on January 19, to further discuss the idea of repurposing the building as an arts and cultural center.
Additional meetings may be scheduled on particular topics These will be announced in the newspapers, on the radio, here on the web site, and by email.
Stay tuned! There’s more to come. . .