Douglas Indian Association seeks permit for cultural education center

The Douglas Indian Association is requesting a conditional use permit for up to 4,000 square feet for the building and up to 1,000 square feet of covered outdoor space. The lot is about 13,500 square feet. (Katie Anastas/KTOO)

The Douglas Indian Association hopes to build a new learning center in South Douglas. The Juneau Planning Commission will consider permitting the project later this month.

According to information submitted by NorthWind Architects, the proposed facility is a single story building with a basement. It would include a classroom and a teaching kitchen. The Douglas Indian Association owns the proposed building site at the end of St. Ann’s Avenue near the Treadwell Mine Trail.

Kamal Lindoff, the Douglas Indian Association’s property management and transportation director, said classes would focus on Lingít language learning and food sovereignty. 

“It’s going to be on a small scale – probably no more than 20 students,” he said.

Right now, the Douglas Indian Association teaches tribal members about processing traditional foods like salmon and crab at Tlingit and Haida Community Council’s bingo hall.

The location is also culturally significant, he said. It overlooks Sandy Beach, the site of the former Douglas Indian Village, and Mayflower Island, a traditional subsistence site.

“It’s a pretty historical and important site for the Douglas Indian Association,” Lindhoff said.

The lot is about 13,500 square feet. Its zoning allows for an educational facility with a conditional use permit. The Douglas Indian Association is requesting a permit for up to 4,000 square feet for the building and up to 1,000 square feet of covered outdoor space. The planning commission will review the request on Nov. 14.

A drawing by NorthWind Architects shows a possible design with a small parking lot in front of the building. (Drawing by NorthWind Architects submitted to Juneau’s planning commission)

One major question is how to provide parking for the new facility. Because of the proposed size of the building, the architects are likely required to put in at least six parking spaces.

One option is to put angled parking spots along the front of the lot. Drivers would back out of those spots directly onto St. Ann’s Avenue. That design would allow for nine spaces.

“The DIA would consider posting some of these spaces as shared for public use, thereby expanding public access capacity at the trailhead at no cost to the City,” the architects wrote.

Another option is to put a small parking lot on site. “Due to challenges in site development and subsequent cost,” the architects wrote, the Douglas Indian Association is requesting a waiver to reduce the required parking from six spots to five.

Lindoff said he’s heard concerns about increased traffic or difficulty parking in the area. But he emphasized that the building wouldn’t be big enough to host large events.

“I can understand people’s concern, but I don’t think we’re going to be pushing that limit to where it’s going to be a problem,” he said. 

The site where the Douglas Indian Association hopes to build the learning center is near an entrance to the Treadwell Mine Trail. The city has a small parking lot there. (Katie Anastas/KTOO)

If the planning commission approves the conditional use permit for the overall project, their next step is to approve or reject the angled parking spot proposal. If they reject it, they’d consider the five-spot parking waiver instead. If both parking plans are denied, the planning process ends unless the Douglas Indian Association appeals.

Lindoff said he expects construction would take two to three years.

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