April 25, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 16

Efforts will brighten Main Street

Efforts to beautify downtown Haines are coming together to give Main Street a facelift before the beginning of tourist season.

In addition to art installations in seven Howsers windows, displays commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Marine Highway will be mounted in windows of the Coliseum Theater building and at the ferry terminal in the coming weeks.

Renovation of the Rusty Compass Coffeehouse (the historic Pryor Drug building) also began this week, and will restore the storefront to its early-1900s façade.

Longer-term projects geared toward revitalizing downtown are also in the works, including a budget recommendation by borough manager Mark Earnest to install bike racks, benches and other amenities downtown.

Carol Tuynman, president of the Alaska Arts Confluence, is spearheading the Howsers project, which will include window exhibits by local artists John Svenson, Sharon Svenson, Marian Carlson, John Carlson, Sarah Cohen, Ma’or Cohen and Andrea Nelson.

Nelson said the window displays not only will liven up Main Street for the benefit of visitors and residents, but will help promote the work of local artists.  

“The artists represent a broad range of mediums. There’s furniture-making and tile work. I personally do found-object assemblages; I find stuff and I glue it together,” Nelson said.

Though the project is volunteer-based, Tuynman has received $500 from the Haines Visitor’s Center to defray costs associated with lighting, mounting and other materials. Tuynman said she was hoping to use the Downtown Revitalization Committee as a vehicle for the project, but committee members have not yet been chosen.

Tourism director Tanya Carlson said she is hoping the new display will get other business owners thinking about how they can improve downtown spaces.

“I know people always complain about what our Main Street looks like; how it always looks so dead... It’s all about making our town more presentable and getting all of our business owners aware of the things they need to do to market themselves, to get their information and their products out there for people to see,” Carlson said.

Nelson also is responsible for designing the Alaska Marine Highway displays for the Coliseum Theater building and ferry terminal. The theater building display will consist of three panels, one for each 6-by-4-foot window, containing text and historic images culled from Nelson’s archival research.

The first panel is devoted to Haines’ role as the birthplace of the ferry system, the second to a timeline illustrating the system’s development and its current vessels, and the third to facts on overall ferry use and the role of ferries in Southeast communities.

A 24-foot long display will run above the ticket windows at the ferry terminal, as well, but will focus on Haines as the birthplace of the ferry system. The theater building installation is for the 50th anniversary celebration and is only temporary, but the ferry terminal display will be permanent, Nelson said.

Sheldon Museum director Jerrie Clarke said the museum could not accomplish the ferry display project internally because it was forced to eliminate its collections and exhibit coordinator position last year due to budget cuts. Instead, the borough is paying Nelson $1,000 for the work, Clarke said.

The Rusty Compass Coffeehouse also is set for a makeover, according to owner Lenise Henderson Fontenot. Henderson Fontenot received a resounding ‘yes’ from the Haines Borough Planning Commission last month after asking it for permission to renovate the coffeehouse’s storefront.

Following attempts to patch up the deteriorating concrete exterior of the building, Henderson Fontenot went to the museum and researched what the building looked like before it burned down in the early 1920s. Using a 1916 archival photo as inspiration, she will cover the concrete with cedar siding, redo windows in a tall, Victorian fashion,  install new kick board and molding, and add ornate trim work to get the building back to its original look.

“What I’m trying to do is find something that has kind of a Victorian look to it, like the old New York coffee shops,” Henderson Fontenot said.

Window displays and remodeled storefronts will also be supplemented by smaller amenities like bike racks, flowers and benches, under Earnest’s plan. Earnest recommended the borough spend $15,000 on “visitor/community enhancements” in the upcoming fiscal year. Whether the assembly will approve the recommendation has yet to be determined.

The revitalization committee, a community group that recently came under the wing of the borough’s planning commission, is still being formed, Mayor Stephanie Scott said. Scott is responsible for appointing seven members to the committee: three downtown business owners, one downtown resident, one planning commission member, one Chilkoot Indian Association representative, and one Chamber of Commerce representative.

Scott said she has heard from three people interested in joining the committee since the planning commission’s decision in mid-March. The seats are being posted on the borough’s website.