The Wrangell Borough Assembly decided last week to move forward with a local hotel’s request to purchase tidelands as part of a plan to expand its lodging space and provide retail space for artists.
Bill and Cheryl Goodale own The Stikine Inn, and they want to fill the tidelands in front of the hotel and add nearly 30,000 square feet to their property.
The Wrangell Port Commission and the Planning and Zoning Commission expressed support for the project, and the borough assembly voted to proceed with an appraisal.
The Stikine Inn is on Wrangell’s waterfront next to City Dock, and it is the first building visitors see when they get off the cruise ships. The inn has a restaurant, a coffee shop, a gift shop and 34 rooms.
Stikine Inn owner Bill Goodale told the borough assembly he plans to nearly double the hotel’s capacity and add retail space for artists.
“I didn’t realize how much talent there is in this town. There’s a lot of talent in this town,” Goodale said. “So with this building here, it is our intent the first floor would be retail. And they would be small retail spaces so that the local artists could show their wares in the summertime.”
That part of the building would replace a city-owned wooden canopy known as the “vendor shelter.” Local artists can pay a small fee to set up there and sell their work to cruise ship passengers.
Tour operators also use the shelter to stage visitors before taking them on tours around the island.
Marjy Wood owns Tyee Travel and is the executive director of the Stikine River Jetboat Association. Wood told the borough assembly that without the vendor shelter, there won’t be enough space to stage cruise ship passengers.
“During a typical summer, collectively, we operators literally put thousands of people on local tours here in Wrangell,” Wood said. “The concern that I have is that the area we currently use for visitor staging is being sold to a private business owner.”
Wood said she supports the Goodale plan as long as the borough creates an alternate staging area.
Harbormaster Greg Meissner said the borough could fill a small area south of the dock and build a canopy there for staging visitors.
“We are going to have some remaining grant funds from the cruise ship project that have to be spent on that site for that industry,” Meissner said. “So we started looking at that roundabout area thinking about where we can add a little bit of material and make a flat spot without getting too far where it would involve a corps permit.”
Wood and other tour operators said they support this solution.
But the Goodales plan to fix up the existing vendor shelter and leave it in place for free public use until they start construction.
Wrangell Mayor David Jack urged the assembly to move forward with the project.
“This is taking property that’s basically not being used and putting it on the tax rolls, which is a benefit to the city and everybody in the city,” Jack said.
Goodale said the expansion would also add 10 to 12 service industry jobs.
Wrangell is in the process of creating a waterfront master plan to guide the area’s long-term development. The Stikine Inn expansion plan would include an easement for a public waterfront walkway.
Goodale said he wants the hotel’s expansion to fit in with the waterfront plan and coincide with the growth of the visitor industry and the Marine Service Center.
“Are we at a point where we need a big expansion or a big new hotel? No, we’re not. We’re not even close. But it’s time to start thinking about it, especially since we’re thinking about waterfront development,” Goodale said.
Goodale estimated it will take about four years to get a fill permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“In four years, we think that the community will have grown enough, and people will be coming here. That makes this hotel expansion feasible,” Goodale said. “Right now, it is not. We’re trying to plan ahead.”
The proposed tidelands sale will go back to the borough assembly for approval after the appraisal is completed.