Local developer shows interest in building resort

Posted: Friday, December 05, 2003

PALMER A well-known developer is the only one to express interest in carving a ski resort out of south side of Government Peak near Hatcher Pass. JL Properties Inc., which has developed a string of high-profile commercial and government properties all over Anchorage, was the only developer to submit a letter of interest by a deadline last week.

This despite an advertising blitz by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough aimed at drumming up interest in the project, including national ads in The Wall Street Journal.

''We have a group of folks who are very experienced in Alaska,'' Borough Manager John Duffy said. ''They have a very realistic view of this. ... Start out with a small, regional ski area, and let it go from there based on the market.''

The company would finance and coordinate the project that could result in a year-round resort with condominiums and cabins and outdoor activities such as alpine and Nordic skiing, snowmachining, hiking and climbing. The company will rely on specialists such as former Olympian Bill Spencer, a Nordic trail designer and two resort development companies that worked on the Whistler Ski Resort in British Columbia.

The lead contractor will be Davis Constructors and Engineers, a construction company owned by one of the developers that tried and failed to get a Hatcher Pass resort going in the past.

Planned to cover about 14,000 acres, a resort has long been the focus of borough plans for recreation-based economic development. But a string of ambitious plans over the years have come up empty.

The state Department of Natural Resources conveyed 3,000 acres to the borough in early 2002 for a downhill ski resort and village. The land is also the site of a proposed Nordic facility. A year earlier, the borough bought the lease on 11,000 acres of state-owned land.

All together, the borough has spent more than $1.5 million on the project, about $850,000 of it state funds. A study estimated the cost of establishing an alpine resort at up to $18 million, Duffy said.

Borough officials plan to meet with JL head Jonathan Rubini and others involved in the project within a few weeks.

The company will be expected to submit a master plan to be reviewed by the borough assembly within eight months, Duffy said.

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