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Redeveloping an Anchorage community: Mountain View business district forges a new future.

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One of the oldest business and residential neighborhoods in Anchorage is sitting poised for a resurgence of its former glory. Mountain View has had its ups and downs over the years, probably reaching its nadir sometime in the last 10 years. Today, however, it boasts new homes, new businesses, a revitalized grocery store, a financial institution and a shopping community just waiting for the right opportunities to come its way.

Founded in 1940 and assimilated by Anchorage in 1954, the neighborhood is one of the few gateways to both sides of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. In its heyday--in the late '40s and early '50s--Mountain View was home to many military families and was the city's first suburb with both residential and commercial business support. The Army Corps of Engineers laid out the streets on a well organized grid.

Today, Mountain View still sits in a prime Anchorage location. On the northern edge of the city, it's an easy stop for commuters to run errands and grab last-minute groceries on their way home to Eagle River or the Mat-Su Valley in the evenings. The ground beneath the community's buildings is some of the finest in the bowl. And, like the Phoenix, Mountain View is beginning to rise from the ashes of its near-demise.

BOOSTING NEW DEVELOPMENT

Under the leadership of former Mayor Mark Begich, several entities focused their efforts on the community and began to destroy derelict structures, refresh tired streets and bring new businesses into the neighborhood. Mountain View Drive was rebuilt and its intersection with Bragaw Street was upgraded. Clark Middle School was replaced as a state-of-the-art educational facility, the community library reopened, a new Credit Union 1 building was erected on the former site of an old gas station and Glenn Square Mall lured national chain stores into the community.

Cook Inlet Housing Authority began buying properties in Mountain View in 2002 and began razing blighted buildings--128 by their count. In their places, CIHA has built 228 new homes and two mixed-use buildings and is seeking a business opportunity for the old Brewster's building, which may be bizmag.com Alaska Business Monthly demolished in favor a new building, and eight lots to the west of the building.

"We're talking to a number of interested businesses who would like to have a location on that corner," said Carol Gore, president and CEO of CIHA. "It would require new development, and we want it to be a mixture of retail, office and housing space. Our goal is to act as developer to get the project going.

"We've also just opened Mountain View Lofts with four retail spaces," Gore added. "Three of those four are already leased. Island Stylin', a sewing and alteration business, is moving in from downtown and a noodle factory--a new business for Anchorage--has leased two spaces. The owner of the noodle factory owns Hula Hands and a couple of other restaurants in Anchorage."

The final space is available, but may soon sport a second-hand clothing shop, featuring professional men's and women's clothes.

Hickel Investment Co. recently upgraded the shopping center housing the Red Apple Market. GCI has plans to move into a retail space on Mountain View Drive and a new Subway is set to go in next to the existing McDonald's. "That's the busiest McDonald's in Anchorage," said Jewel Jones, executive director of the Anchorage Community Land Trust, also known as the ACLT.

Jones added that Glenn Square is slated for a new restaurant. "Xalos Mexican Grill is a locally owned restaurant," she said. "There's one now in Fairbanks." She also said she was talking with the Municipality about bringing some local government offices to the mall. "A dentist moved into the neighborhood in 2009 and he says he loves being here. He's doing great and said the number of clients has exceeded his expectations," she added.

NONPROFITS LEAD THE WAY

The ACLT, created in 2003 to drive the revitalization of the Mountain View neighborhood, began its work with the major acquisition of the old SaNer Warehouse building on Mountain View Drive.

"We had some prospective tenants--Camp Fire, Foraker--and we used some rather innovative funding mechanisms," Jones said. "It took a while to develop the building occupancy, but we have a positive cash flow today."

Other tenants in the building now include the State Council on the Arts, Alaska Works Partnership, State Programs for Infants and Children, ACLT offices, Cook Inlet Tribal Council and the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center--both of which lease warehouse space.

Jones also said the ACLT purchased the corner lot on Mountain View Drive and Bragaw Street where an old Unocal station had stood. Then, working with Chevron--purchaser of Unocal--remediated the property to bring in the new Credit Union 1 branch in 2010. ACLT purchased the John's RV site, as well, and helped relocate tenants before tearing out the old cabins and motel office. "Now, it's a large vacant property ready for development," Jones said. After purchasing the Mobile Trailer Supply land and buildings, which housed the only art gallery in Mountain View, ACLT recently sold that site to Special Olympics, which plans a statewide training facility and campus for competitors.

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"Our most recent acquisition," Jones said, "was Alaska Super Pawn on Mountain View and Price. Now, we're bringing it up to code so we can bring more private-sector investment into the community. We've already built out a workshop in the building and two of the most distinguished Alaska Native artists, Alvin Amason and Perry Eaton, will move into this space as well as work with us to attract additional artists. "Bringing businesses into Mountain View means they have to be convinced they'll make money," Jones added. "They're not social enterprises."

To help convince those businesses, CIHA has recently commissioned a study of the neighborhood and preliminary results, as well as CIHA's own figures, are favorable.

* Residents are making more money--the number of households earning more than $50,000 a year has nearly doubled since 1990.

* More than 50 percent of residents have lived in their homes for more than five years--a 30 percent increase from 2000.

* Real estate values have climbed 159 percent since 1998--83 percent more than in South Anchorage.

* Neighborhood occupancy today is at 94 percent; CIHA's housing is 100 percent occupied.

What businesses would Mountain View welcome? Both Gore and Jones, after working with the neighborhood residents and community council, can readily tick off a list.

[check] Pharmacy

[check] Attorney

[check] Insurance Agent

[check] Coffee Shop

[check] Child Care

[check] Book Store

[check] Hairdresser

[check] Barbershop

[check] Contract Post Office

[check] Medical Clinic

[check] Clothing Store

[check] More Restaurants

"Not only would it mean shopping opportunities," Gore said, "it also would mean job creation. Where else can you be five minutes from downtown, where 7,700 households could walk to your business every day, where cars from Eagle River and the bases drive down your street, where income levels are steady and growing?"

GREAT GROWTH

Leslie Ellis, president and CEO of Credit Union 1, said she talks to businesses regularly about Mountain View. "I ask them if they've been there lately," she said. "Have they looked at the demographics? One of the misconceptions is that people who live there don't have money. We've exceeded our expectations since we opened and every time I'm there, I see people walking around with cell phones. We have a GCI pay box in our branch there, and I know people are making payments for cell phones and cable television. That helped convince GCI to move here. There's a lot of activity here and Mountain View is open for business."
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Title Annotation:Ripe for Redevelopment
Comment:Redeveloping an Anchorage community: Mountain View business district forges a new future.(Ripe for Redevelopment)
Author:West, Gail
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Article Type:Company overview
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Dec 1, 2011
Words:1270
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