The Wrangell Borough Assembly voted Tuesday to move forward with evaluating development options at the former Wrangell Institute property and the former mill site.
The City and Borough of Wrangell is looking to develop a residential subdivision on the Institute property and determine if it is feasible to develop the mill site for marine industrial use.
The borough already owns the 134-acre Institute site, which is about five miles south of town. Most of the land is forested and undeveloped. But part of the site was once home to the Wrangell Institute, a boarding school the federal government used to assimilate Alaska Native children into Western culture.
Those buildings are gone now, and the Wrangell Economic Development Committee has been trying to figure out what to do with the property.
Assembly Member Julie Decker said the committee agreed it would be a good place for a residential subdivision.
“One of the issues that we’ve talked about also is if some of our development plans even just continue on the slow growth that Wrangell has been moving down, residential property will begin to be a bottleneck,” Decker said. “And in communities like Juneau, you’ve seen residential property be such a bottleneck that their property values are very high, and it’s a detriment to bringing more people to their community.”
The borough assembly approved a Request for Proposals (RFP) and is seeking a contractor to analyze the site. The resulting information will help the borough determine how it can develop the property.
In the RFP, the borough asks for a master plan for residential development with rough plans for green belts, utility infrastructure and road access. The information will include a fiscal impact analysis and will identify possible funding sources. The area could also accommodate some small-scale commercial development.
Economic Development Director Carol Rushmore said the City and Borough of Wrangell would be the developer.
“We would work with the contractor on the subdivision design, and then ask for assistance in phasing, financing and different ways that we could afford it,” Rushmore said.
Borough assembly members discussed options for the mill site behind closed doors in an executive session. They went back on the record to proceed with a second RFP for a property assessment and feasibility study of the 110-acre site, which sits six miles south of town.
The borough wants to explore possibilities for marine industrial development at the mill site because there is no space for the Marine Service Center to expand at its current location in downtown Wrangell.
The former site of the Alaska Pulp Corporation Sawmill and, more recently, the Silver Bay Logging Mill could present some environmental challenges. There are three or four sunken barges on the tidelands, and the area was recently removed from the state’s list of contaminated properties.
In the RFP, the borough asks potential contractors to evaluate the costs associated with the site’s environmental issues.
The RFPs for the Institute property and the mill site will go out in the next two weeks. The borough assembly plans to award contracts in November.
A state grant of nearly $190,000 will cover the cost of the property assessments.