Wrangell residents were able to take a look at three new design plans for the former Wrangell Institute property Monday evening. The community also got its first look at plans for a possible 400-bed boarding school.
About 40 people gathered in Wrangell’s Nolan Center June 13 to see three possible designs for the 134-acre Wrangell Institute property and a presentation on a possible boarding school for underserved Native children.
The former Wrangell Institute was demolished about 15 years ago and had a long history of abuse accusations.
The Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program – or ANSEP – is an accelerated learning program based on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. ANSEP Vice Provost and Founder Herb Schroeder presented the possibility of building the school on the property. The Wrangell school would be the program’s first boarding facility.
Schroeder said he received a good response after the presentation.
“The questions are typical questions, concerned community about how it’s going to work, but I haven’t heard a single negative comment all night about building the school here,” said Schroeder. “I’m excited about the potential, and together with the community of Wrangell, we’re going to change education in the state of Alaska.”
Schroeder told the community the program serves 2,000 students currently. They range from fifth grade all the way to PHD students. He said the boarding school would aim to serve rural Native children who don’t have many educational opportunities, but would also be open to all students who apply.
The firm in charge of the project, Corvus Design, included ANSEP in all three master plans. Chris Mertl is a landscape architect for Corvus and said comments left on the plans supported the idea of ASNEP, but overall they came into a three-way tie.
“There was definitely a desire to have a variety of mixed housing types for single family, some lots larger than an acre, some smaller than an acre. There’s also a lot of support for cottage housing which are smaller houses around the 600 to 800 square foot, where they shared a lot of common facilities whether it be open space and parking,” said Mertl. “Those would be great opportunities for the community for first-time home owners, or even rental opportunities for seasonal. There was also desire to include the ANSEP campus and to consolidate it.”
Mertl said not all aspects of the plans had full support. There was some division on where to place a senior assisted living facility.
“Some people wanted it up high where it was quiet in the woods, other people wanted it closer to the road where there was more activity. So I think most of our direction has been pretty clear. I think the senior assisted housing will be the one that the community is most divided on,” said Mertl.
Tribal Administrator for the Wrangell Cooperative Association, Aaron Angerman, said he would rather have the senior building closer to the road so it could be developed sooner.
“So it seems to me that we don’t want to phase that assisted living too far back in the subdivision. I like number two, it was right up front,” said Angerman. “I think the seniors would love that view of right there of the harbor and the bay, so that got my vote.”
The proposed plans also included retail space, a gym, bike paths and green space. Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch said in earlier an interview that funding for the projects on the property would largely depend on partnerships with other organizations.
Mertl and his team are staying in Wrangell to sort through comments and present a final proposal on June 15 in the Nolan Center. The public meeting will be the last chance for the public to comment on the proposed plan.