A cafe for the Noel Wien Public Library, a new community center for the city of North Pole and rest stops with welcome signs where the Richardson and Parks highways enter the Fairbanks North Star Borough are among dozens of ideas submitted for a pending capital improvement plan.
The proposals include remodeling the inside of six schools; extending the Crooked Creek Whiskey Island Railroad encircling Pioneer Park to cross Moore Street; tearing down the Pioneer Park Centennial Center for the Arts and moving its functions to the Carlson Center, which would get an addition; a new riverfront park next to Pike’s Landing; a riverwalk along the Noyes Slough; and expansion of the Big Dipper Ice Arena to include a wellness center with a child care facility.
“I am pleased with the quality and thoughtfulness of the nominations from the community and from borough staff,” Borough Mayor Bryce Ward said in an email. “I don’t want to tip the hat on which projects we are expecting to bring forward but you can expect to see school projects, parks and rec and general government facilities.”
The deadline to submit a project to the mayor’s office was Oct. 11. Ward said 96 projects were proposed. Two were rejected for failing to meet guidelines.
The mayor is sifting through the projects and expects to make a presentation with recommendations to the Borough Assembly in December, he said.
The borough has about $20 million in its facilities maintenance account, with Ward asking the assembly to add $6.5 million more by revoking a line of credit that was set aside for the Interior Gas Utility.
The projects submitted for consideration would collectively cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Most of the proposals came from employees of the borough or school district. Projects were also submitted by private groups that use borough facilities. The projects vary in detail.
Some of the grander projects were submitted by the mayor. For example, Ward proposed a major expansion at North Pole High School, adding as much as 100,000 square feet to expand vocational and technical education offerings. The estimated cost is $18 million-$20 million.
Another proposal by Ward would expand Pioneer Park’s eastern boundary, grabbing a portion of Second Avenue, Moore Street and the nearby ballfields, allowing the railroad to add track and adding new buildings. The estimated cost is $9 million.
Another proposal by Ward calls for the ice plant at the Carlson Center to be removed and 20,000 square feet added to the building for meeting space. That project is estimated to cost $9.5 million.
Ward’s costliest proposal at $87 million is a plan to replace the Mary Siah Recreation Center and Hamme Pool with a 200,000-square-foot aquatics and recreation center to be constructed behind the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
That’s not the only big-ticket project on the list. A proposal submitted by Explore Fairbanks calls for a Fairbanks Convention and Arts Center to be built at the site of the condemned Polaris Hotel.
Explore Fairbanks has been studying the feasibility of the project for years. One study put the estimated cost at $20 million-$60 million depending on facility size and amenities.
Deb Hickok, Explore Fairbanks president and CEO, wrote in her proposal that the money for the new convention center could come from federal tax credits, private grants or raising the bed tax.
Other new buildings proposed for Fairbanks include a new animal shelter at $17 million and an 8,000-square-foot indoor playground at $3.4 million.
A few projects were proposed for North Pole. In addition to a new community center, a new recreation area has been recommended. Heritage Forest Recreation Area, in the Badger Road Area near Peede and Brock roads, would be a multi-use trail system crossing boreal forest and wetlands. The development would include signs, trailheads, parking and a restroom. The estimated cost is $339,000.
“The primary goals for work on the ground will be to encourage conflict-free use of the area by a range of users, and provide appropriate trailheads,” area resident Cam Webb wrote in his proposal. “The HFRA is already criss-crossed by trails, some used by ATVs, some by mushers and snowmachines, some only by people on foot. The first task will be to do a full trail inventory of the land, identifying routes and existing uses.”
Some already established trail systems were recommended for improvements by way of signs, dedicated trailheads and restrooms including the Isberg Recreation Area, the Equinox Marathon Trail and the Skyline Ridge Park and Goldstream Valley Public Use Area.
Most of the proposals submitted to the borough are for upgrades, additions and remodeling at existing facilities.
Ward proposed adding 6,000 square feet to the first floor of the Juanita Helms Administration Center.
A proposal by a library employee calls for adding 4,000 square feet of space at the Noel Wien library and reconfiguring the building to add amenities, such as a cafe, more study rooms, a maker space and areas dedicated to teens and tweens.
A $2.8 million addition at the air museum at Pioneer Park would provide for a new entryway, restrooms, a gift shop and classrooms, according to another proposal.
Rob Proffitt, the general manager of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs hockey team, put in a proposal to add a sheet of ice at the Big Dipper Ice Arena along with offices for the Ice Dogs and a store.
Assemblywoman Leah Berman Williams put in a proposal to construct a cover over the Riverboat Nenana and begin renovations.
Some facilities were recommended for routine maintenance, such as paint, flooring or windows and roof replacement. Those buildings include four elementary schools — Anne Wien, Arctic Light, Anderson and Crawford — the downtown bus depot and the Kitty Hensley House Museum.
Multiple proposals recommended that the borough tear down the Centennial Center for the Arts at Pioneer Park and move its functions elsewhere.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.