Development plans for the bluff-top lot east of the Kenai Senior Center may be closer to reality than they’ve been since the Kenai City Council designated the 15-acre area as “Millennium Square” more than a decade ago.
The latest plans feature a covered stage and were drawn up in a feasibility report by the Kenai Parks and Recreation Commission’s Kenai Outdoor Opportunity Location (KOOL) subcommittee. The group may present plans to the Kenai City Council in February.
After being named in 2002, Millennium Square was featured as an economic development priority in Kenai’s 2003 comprehensive plan, which identified the scenic city-owned lot as a potential site for hotels, convention centers, shopping districts and trail systems. Previous attempts to bring something to the lot have included work by a Kenai Economic Development Strategy committee in 2003 and a Kenai Chamber of Commerce-led effort in early 2004.
The more modest recent plans include an elevated covered stage, parking lots, spaces designed for event vendors, and an open area for spectators. The eight members of the KOOL committee examined 17 other city-owned properties before deciding to set the stage at Millennium Square.
KOOL committee members said there was a variety of reasons Millennium Square was chosen.
“There was a consensus that walkability and access to the core of Kenai was important,” said KOOL chairman and Kenai City Council member Brian Gabriel. “... The idea of bringing events into town is to generate some sort of economic benefit to the city, to have people in close proximity to the businesses where they can walk, in addition to attending the event.”
KOOL committee member and Kenai Chamber of Commerce secretary Meagan Smith said the location’s uniqueness was another point in its favor.
“Aesthetics was real important to us,” Smith said. “What is unique about Kenai, what do we have? That parcel overlooks the river, and that’s why a lot of people come from out of town. So we can put something that highlights what the coolest features are of our city.”
The covered stage will be between 600 and 1,200 square feet. The draft report states that “the Subcommittee preferred the larger size but deferred to the smaller size due to budgetary concerns.”
The 600 square-foot stage, with lighting and electrical connections, is priced at $237,636 in the draft report’s cost estimate.
KOOL committee member Scott Merry, owner of Whitey’s Music store, said he had calculated the range of stage sizes based on how many musicians they could hold.
“I had looked up the amount of square feet that are suggested for an orchestra player and multiplied that,” Merry said. “I was thinking of a high school band or a community orchestra. I did that, then added a drum set and grand piano, and that’s where the larger number came from.”
“We wanted it bigger than Soldotna,” Kool Committee member Brendyn Shiflea added jokingly. For comparison, the covered stage in Soldotna’s Soldotna Creek Park is 820 square feet.
The subcommittee estimated the total project, with a 200-space parking lot, restrooms, 600 square foot stage, and 18 vendor spaces with water and electrical hookups, will cost $1.2 million.
Koch estimated that the proposal may be ready to present in a work session with city council in February. The committee’s draft report recommends an $35,000 allotment for detailed design work in next year’s budget and for construction to take place over the next 5-7 years.
Reach Ben Boettger at email@example.com.