Point MacKenzie: Tank Farms and Coal Loading or 2.4 Dimond Centers of Retail?

March 21st, 2012

What happens when the land use plans for one large state-funded project – the Alaska Railroad extension to an industrial Port MacKenzie – completely conflict with the land use assumptions of another state-funded project – the Knik Arm Bridge? The Mat-Su Borough has approved plans for heavy industry and manufacturing around Port MacKenzie. However, the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority (KABATA) Financial Plan assumes that the equivalent of 2.4 Dimond Centers of retail space will be built at Point MacKenzie. Could KABATA’s retail numbers result from the need to generate the traffic figures large enough to cover the bridge costs?

On February 1, 2011 the Mat-Su Borough Assembly adopted the Port MacKenzie Master Plan Update. The vision of the Plan is “resource development” and the plan outlines land use consistent with that vision: mineral and forest products processing, a petrochemical plant, metal fabrication for oil and gas modules, power generation and other manufacturing industries. A possible liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant, coal loading, and tank farms are proposed uses clustered on the 7,600 acres surrounding the Port.

In the Port Master Plan, a small zone of commercial and light industrial businesses are planned around Lake Lorraine as a compliment to the local industrial area. There is no mention of retail at Point MacKenzie.

In 2007, KABATA toll and traffic consultant Wilbur Smith Associates (WSA) projected 8 million square feet of building and a billion dollars of investment by 2030 including the big traffic generator of 1,740,000 square feet of retail, (see pp. A-31-36). How realistic is 1,740,000 square feet of retail at Point MacKenzie? At 728,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space, Anchorage’s Dimond Center is Alaska’s largest mall. Tikahtnu Commons off the Glenn Highway on Anchorage’s east side is now over 500,000 square feet with plans to double that amount.

The WSA retail projection amounts to 2.4 Dimond Centers or over 3 Tikhatnu Commons at Point MacKenzie by 2030. To generate the 36,000 trips a day KABATA’s Financial Plan assumes in 2035, most of those shoppers will need to come from Anchorage and they presumably will all prefer to pay a one way car toll of $8 (commercial $28) than shop in downtown Anchorage, the Dimond Center, Tikahtnu Commons or other locations. (CH2MHILL used Scott Goldsmith’s ISER demographic data to project less than half as many trips in 2035 or 17,700, see 9/22/11 post).

In 2010, Steve Colt of UAA’s ISER estimated 3,500 industrial jobs at Point MacKenzie by 2030. The 2007 WSA Traffic Study projected 6,740 jobs at Point MacKenzie by 2030. Curiously, when in 2011 KABATA released the WSA traffic analysis zone(TAZ) maps, those 6,740 jobs in 2030 had grown to 13,828 jobs in 2035, see Point MacKenzie TAZ zones # 136 and # 593.