Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion A series of wood carvings face the highway at Soldotna's Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center at the junction of the Sterling Highway and Kalifornsky Beach Road on Tuesday August 11, 2015 in Soldotna Alaska. The chamber and the city's council will consider an agreement that would allow the chamber to plan and build a new center over the next five years on a city owned piece of property. The city would agree not to sell or develop the parcel in the interim.

Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion A series of wood carvings face the highway at Soldotna's Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center at the junction of the Sterling Highway and Kalifornsky Beach Road on Tuesday August 11, 2015 in Soldotna Alaska. The chamber and the city's council will consider an agreement that would allow the chamber to plan and build a new center over the next five years on a city owned piece of property. The city would agree not to sell or develop the parcel in the interim.

Soldotna Chamber, city to consider relocation agreement

  • By Rashah McChesney
  • Tuesday, August 11, 2015 11:39pm
  • News

Soldotna’s Chamber of Commerce has been operating out of a building that can be a chore to reach at the corner of the Sterling Highway and Kalifornsky Beach Road. The city owns the property and pays the chamber to run a visitors center out of the building, but members from the chamber have said the space is too small to accommodate the increasing number of visitors to Soldotna.

Members of the chamber want to build on another city-owned property in downtown Soldotna, one that borders Soldotna Creek Park, and while no plans have been finalized, an agreement will go before the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday that would restrict development on the proposed site until the chamber has raised the capital it needs to construct a new building.

It’s not a type of agreement the city has normally used, said Soldotna City Manager Mark Dixson. However, the circumstances surrounding the project, the proposal and the parcel — which the city purchased for nearly $1 million in 2013 — made it a potentially beneficial one for the chamber and the city.

“The chamber is going to have to put a lot of effort, both in time and capital money into this project, and it really doesn’t behoove them to invest that kind of money if the city is going to sell the property or do something else that’s contrary to their development,” Dixson said. “It entices them to invest the staff time and capital into the project.”

According to the terms of the agreement, the city would not develop or sell any interest in the parcel for the next five years, to allow the chamber sufficient time to design and raise capital for the construction of a new center. If passed by the city’s council, the agreement would also bar the city from developing any project at Soldotna Creek Park that could interfere with the potential center.

“Lets say we decide to put up another pavilion,” Dixson said. “We wouldn’t necessarily put up a new pavilion right adjacent to where they’re planning to build.”

In exchange for the city’s agreement not to develop the property, the chamber will commit to a series of benchmarks for progress on a new building that bind it to a design and fundraising schedule.

While no final decisions have been made on the design of a new center, Dixson said the city had been in discussions with the chamber on an interpretive center on the top floor of a two-story building and level with Soldotna Creek Park. The chamber of commerce would operate out of the lower floor of the building.

It’s not clear how far along in the building planning process the chamber has gotten, Chamber of Commerce President Ryan Kapp did not return calls for comment as of press time.

The parcel, formerly known as the Davis Block property, sits at the end of an extension of Birch Lane in Soldotna which crosses the Sterling Highway before losing elevation and dead ending on the banks of the Kenai River.

“From the city’s standpoint, we see a facility — a visitors facility next to Soldotna Creek Park — as synergy,” Dixson said. “Pepole can visit the park, come over to the visitor’s center which would have educational materials as well. We see it as something that would benefit the tourists in the city and there’s also been discussion about possibly having this facility have a restaurant or coffee shop.”

Dixson said without the chamber staff pushing to get the center built, it would likely not be completed quickly by the city.

“A lot of people think that this is something that benefits the Chamber of Commerce only and not the city, but we see it as something that benefits the city that we’re thankful that the chamber is willing to take on because, quite frankly, we don’t have the resources to do that,” he said.

Reach Rashah McChesney at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com or follow her on Twitter @litmuslens

More in News

Vehicles are unleaded at the Seward Harbor after being moved from Lowell Point on Sunday, May 22, 2022 in Seward, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management)
Lowell Point barge services move 110-plus cars to Seward

The services were covered by the Kenai Peninsula Borough and ended Monday

Anglers fish on the Kenai River on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O'Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Watershed Forum receives matching grant from Conoco

The Kenai Watershed Forum was given a grant from ConocoPhillips to fund… Continue reading

A beach on the eastern side of Cook Inlet is photographed at Clam Gulch, Alaska, in June 2019. The Alaska Board of Fisheries is implementing new shellfish regulations in Cook Inlet. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Fish and Game closes East Cook Inlet razor clam fisheries

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has closed the Cook Inlet… Continue reading

Anastasia Scollon (left) and Willow King (right) stand in The Goods + Sustainable Grocery and Where it’s At mindful food and drink on Monday, May 16, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Sustainable shopping finds new home in Soldotna

The Collective used to operate out of Cook Inletkeeper’s Community Action Studio

The Alaska State Capitol is seen on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Legislature modernizes 40-year-old definition of consent in sexual assault cases

‘Alaska took a gargantuan step forward in updating our laws,’ says deputy attorney general

Project stakeholders cut a ribbon at the Nikiski Shelter of Hope on Friday, May 20, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Stakeholders celebrate opening of Nikiski shelter

The shelter officially opened last December

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks with reporters Thursday about the state’s budget at the Alaska State Capitol. Dunleavy said lawmakers had sent a complete budget, and that there was no need for a special session.
Dunleavy: No need for special session

Governor calls budget “complete”

A magnet promoting the Alaska Reads Act released sits atop a stack of Alaskan-authored and Alaska-centric books. Lawmakers passed the Alaska Reads Act on the last day of the legislative session, but several members of the House of Representatives were upset with the bill, and the way it was passed. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
In last-minute move, Legislature passes early reading overhaul

Rural lawmakers push back on Alaska Reads Act

Graduates wait to receive diplomas during Connections Homeschool’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Connections honors more than 100 graduates

The home-school program held a ceremony Thursday in Soldotna

Most Read