Local News

Economic development committee pushing for Institute Property plan

Wrangell’s Economic Development Committee wants the Borough Assembly to consider developing the city’s Institute Property.

Wrangell City Hall

During the committee’s meeting Monday night, members decided to move forward with a request that the assembly begin accepting development ideas and proposals for a possible sale of the property. Allowing a budget for an appraisal of the 134 acres also is part of the request. That would need to be done before any other action is taken. The last appraisal was performed in 2002. At that time the land was valued at $720,000.

Economic Development Director Carol Rushmore said she isn’t sure what the city wants to do with the property. But she pointed out the community has had input over the years about what could potentially be built there.

“There’s been a lot of planning processes to look at potential uses and there’s sort of a list of potential uses that have always been very acceptable to the community: education, medical, not industrial, low-grade commercial even. But that property is a really tough one because it has emotional ties to this community,” Rushmore said.

Committee Chair Julie Decker said she would like to see businesses drawn to town that fit the mold of what the community has wanted.

“Part of the problem, in my mind, has been that we all talked about what we think would be a good use. But no one has come to the table and said ‘I propose to do this, and this is how I’m going to do it’. So in my mind, I want to get the information out to other people and places,” Decker said.

Member Marlene Clark mentioned a community center might be a good use of the property. She said people could take university classes or workshops about crafts. Clark also suggested what’s called an Elderhostel.

“I thought that was one of the things that could be mentioned out there with maybe some nature trails or a bike trail also. And, you know, things that people could come and do, and enjoy the community and then take some classes,” Clark said.

Member Michelle Ward mentioned developing a substance abuse program for young adults. She said that’s something that’s severely lacking in Southeast Alaska.

“This just comes from my experience in being involved in that. And I’m watching people come in during family week where maybe the stay for the person is eight weeks. One week of that, families come in. So they’re going to stay at a hotel, they’re going to eat at the restaurants, they’re going to shop. Businesses could actually open up geared toward something like that. Plus, it’s positive,” Ward said.

Members also discussed the possibility of leasing parcels of land in stages. Rushmore said no matter what the potential development may be the borough assembly must first give the go-ahead for an appraisal.

The request for action could be put on the assembly’s Nov. 27 agenda. Representatives from the committee plan to attend.


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