Mayor pushes downtown mural
Haines Borough Mayor Stephanie Scott said owners of the shuttered Coliseum Building on Main Street are agreeable to taking boards off windows during summer months, but balked at Scott’s idea for a mural on the structure.
“I’m a little discouraged, but I’m not giving up. I still believe conversation should be the solution versus taxation (and regulation),” Scott said.
Some downtown merchants say the building is an eyesore and that charging an extra tax levy on shuttered buildings in the main commercial district, or prohibiting them outright, would remedy such situations.
Scott suggested to building manager Dorain Gross that owner Gross Alaska pay half the estimated $3,500 cost of a mural that would go on the building, and that businesses or others would raise the other half. But Gross said the cost was too steep, Scott said.
Scott said she suggested a salmon life cycle mural that would wrap around one corner of the building.
Scott also asked if the building might be opened and used as a public restroom, but Gross didn’t respond to that part of her request, she said.
Scott said she looked at regulations of other communities for addressing abandoned or dilapidated buildings, but said she didn’t believe the borough has expertise for making decisions of those kinds because it doesn’t employ a building inspector.
“That building needs to become locally owned. Then there wouldn’t be a problem at all. It probably wouldn’t be a problem if (the owners) walked down Main Street every day. When you don’t see it every day, it doesn’t rise to a level of concern. That’s normal,” Scott said.
Scott said she may take the question to the Haines Chamber of Commerce or to downtown business owners.
In 2010 and 2011, Gross Alaska allowed the borough to uncover the windows and put historic photos in them, but the borough didn’t make such an effort last summer, for reasons that aren’t clear.
Museum director Jerrie Clarke, who provided the historic photos, said she previously worked with manager Mark Earnest to put up the display, but didn’t hear from Earnest last summer. “I think it just kind of fell through the cracks.”
Borough finance director Jila Stuart volunteered to put in and maintain flower boxes along the windows the first summer the building closed. “When it first happened, it seemed like it was going to be such a blight on Main Street. It seems to have become less of an issue. Maybe because of (last summer’s) road construction or may because people have gotten used to it,” Stuart said.
Main Street merchant Kristine Harder asked the borough planning commission in August to prohibit boarding over windows on certain streets in the downtown core. The commission instead opted for writing a letter.
“It makes us look like we’re a town going under,” Harder said.