Cook Inlet Housing Authority and Anchorage Community Land Trust partnered to remake what had been rundown condos into affordable rental showpieces. (Photo courtesy of Cook Inlet Housing Authority)
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Sixteen years after Rasmuson Foundation helped create the Anchorage Community Land Trust to revitalize Mountain View, the heart of the community is being transformed. The community recently celebrated the grand opening of Ch’anikna Commons, a pair of condominiums that went from neglected eyesore to affordable rental showplace. At the Sept. 24 event, board member Curtis McQueen — who was adopted into the Eklutna tribe — provided the land acknowledgement and also spoke about why the Foundation committed to the development.

“At the Foundation, we especially like being part of projects that leverage relationships and partnerships. This project is a beautiful example of a partnership, particularly between Cook Inlet Housing Authority and Anchorage Community Land Trust,” he told the packed room at the Mountain View Community Center.

Rasmuson Foundation board member Curtis McQueen told the crowd at the Mountain View Community Center how important it is to leverage investments, underscoring one of the Foundation’s guiding principles of turning support from one into support from many.

The Foundation’s $2 million investment in Ch’anikna Commons includes a $150,000 grant to Cook Inlet Housing Authority, a $1.6 million low-cost loan to CIHA and a $250,000 award to the Anchorage Community Land Trust. That helped the community land trust invest in the redevelopment project. This is the Anchorage Community Land Trust’s first investment in housing with a total commitment of $950,000. The organization fills both land trust and community development roles. Cook Inlet Housing Authority, which is both manager and primary owner of Ch’anikna Commons, says the acquisition and renovation cost $8.2 million in all.

“There is no more important investment than what you see here today,” Carol Gore, Cook Inlet Housing president and CEO, said at the grand opening. The old condos used to be called Marina Karina, which the new owners believe were the names of the original developer’s daughters.

The Marina Karina in Mountain View condos became run down over time. (Photo courtesy of Cook Inlet Housing Authority.)

He must have been proud of the buildings, Gore said. But they deteriorated over time. Police were called there frequently.

“For our work to take root, it’s day by day, block by block, family by family, neighborhood by neighborhood. Because when we improve neighborhoods, we all win!” said Kirk Rose, CEO of Anchorage Community Land Trust. One key is to build relationships that aren’t just transactional but that go deeper, to be transformative, he said. The nonprofit just moved into a new headquarters down the street from Ch’anikna Commons.

The block includes the Mountain View Boys and Girls Club located inside the community center and the William B. Lyons Park, located between the community center and Ch’anikna Commons. The Municipality of Anchorage is improving the park, through a voter-approved parks bond, and also will make new investments to update the 20-year-old community center building.

Mountain View teenager Kate the Great has grown up in the community, which she loves for how people come together. She remembers the old Marina Karina development. “I’m so glad that they fixed it, and they are fixing it.”

A modern and energy-efficient design with solar panels funded in part by Wells Fargo defines the 21-unit housing development. Other partners, funders and collaborators include Alaska Housing Finance Corp., Federal Home Loan Bank Des Moines, Mountain View Boys and Girls Club, Mountain View Community Council, the Municipality, Northrim Bank, R4 Capital, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In Dena’ina, Ch’anikna (cha NEEK nuh) means “my children.” The hope is that the condos, remade inside and out, will be home for many children and families in upcoming years.

Rental information and applications for Ch’anikna Commons are available here on Cook Inlet Housing Authority’s website.

The organization collected stories of home to celebrate the grand opening of Ch’anikna Commons. Here are a few:

Carol Gore, president and CEO, Cook Inlet Housing Authority

As a child growing up in a small 10×55 trailer, it seemed like someone from my mom’s large family was always showing up. Someway she always had enough food and she found places for everyone to sleep. Somehow it never felt crowded. There were always lots of hugs and laughter … and a healthy dose of chaos.

Kirk Rose, CEO, Anchorage Community Land Trust

One of the defining moments of my childhood is when our “house” arrived on a truck squeezing between light poles and stop signs on the street. My brother, sister, mom and I watched it lowered over the giant hole and foundation that had been built below. It was overwhelming that my mom had figured out how to make this happen and it was going to take dedication to make the space feel like a home. Our family spent years turning that sterile pre-fab into a place that was ours — doing it ourselves paycheck by Mom’s paycheck. It’s where I learned hard work and where I first felt secure.

Diane Kaplan, president and CEO, Rasmuson Foundation

I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and left for college in Philadelphia at 17. That was the year of my first plane trip. Public radio work took me to California and then on a two-year adventure to Alaska. That was 36 years ago. Since that first Allegheny flight in 1974, I’ve had a chance to travel the world, one of my great passions. But there’s a special place in Alaska where I spend time part of August and early September, the place my family knows I want to spend my final hours, that truly brings me home. Wind, rain, fish, bears, ocean surf, sand, volcanoes, eagles, fireweed. When I get there each year, the first thing I do is ride a four-wheeler down the beach and unleash a traditional yell, to say thank you as loud as I can.

Dave Barney, manager, Mountain View Community Center, Boys and Girls Club

Home is where you find the feeling of comfort. A place where memories are created and shared with loved ones. A fragile environment where instability can create chaos. An opportunity to overcome and create anew.

A Ch’anikna Commons model apartment