Kodiak Marketplace
A new shopping center stimulates the city
By Mikel Insalaco
Nvision Architecture

pting to replace the old with the new can profoundly impact the community’s fabric. So it is with Kodiak, one of Alaska’s oldest cities, and a new shopping center. The transformation is driven by Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA), which is mainly responsible for healthcare on the archipelago. Through the new Kodiak Marketplace, KANA took a big leap into commercial real estate, a venture that is energizing the whole community through strategic redevelopment.

The structure that would become the Kodiak Marketplace was originally built after the 1964 earthquake as a Kraft Foods store. This development was significant for Kodiak, often likened by elders to “big city” advancements.

In the late ‘70s, Alaska Commercial Company acquired and remodeled the building, operating it until a decade ago. This location provided essential grocery and food security and introduced significant advancements to the community, including a Burger King franchise that marked a notable evolution in the community’s commercial landscape.

In 2014, KANA acquired the property with the aim of significantly contributing to the revitalization of downtown Kodiak while aligning with its overarching goals as a healthcare organization. The old building was demolished in 2021, clearing the property for an ambitious redevelopment.

The community’s need for a centralized space that could act as a nucleus for social interaction, community engagement, and economic initiatives was apparent. Understanding the potential of such a space to greatly enhance the cohesion and vitality of the downtown area, KANA envisioned creating not just a place for commerce but a hub for cultural and communal gatherings. This initiative was geared towards establishing a vibrant center that would foster a deep sense of belonging and unity among Kodiak residents.

Marketplace Objectives
Nearly a decade ago, upon acquiring the building that would evolve into the Kodiak Marketplace, KANA’s objectives were straightforward: to create a central hub for community gatherings and to bolster local businesses. To realize this vision, KANA enlisted Nvision Architecture for the design and Cornerstone General Contractors for construction. Adjacent to the property during construction was Cornerstone’s Kodiak office, placing the work constantly within its gaze.

Paul Baril, owner and principal architect at Nvision Architecture, led the design team. To serve the project’s broad objective, the building was made with small businesses and improved pedestrian navigation in mind.

The design also reflects deliberate efforts to honor Kodiak’s rich maritime heritage, an element confidently integrated into the architectural design. “The overall design and the exploration of materials, textures, and colors used throughout the building was inspired by local context, the maritime environment of Kodiak, and the local cultural heritage of the Native people of the Koniag region,” Baril says.

To evoke Kodiak’s seafaring identity, Baril points to the ground-floor interior design. “The materials used on the first-level retail corridor were significantly influenced by maritime elements, with one of the main goals being to create a space that resembles a boardwalk or public pier, yet with a sophisticated flair,” he says. This led to the selection of rustic yet colorful materials for the storefronts and the incorporation of wooden piers wrapped with heavy nylon rope, as well as marine block and tackle under the open-air staircase. These elements serve not only as thematic decoration but also meet safety requirements.

Portrait photograph view of Cornerstone General Contractors preconstruction manager Justin McVaney (right) and senior project manager Jonathan Hornak (left) are seen discussing completed work with a carpenter as all of them are indoors somewhere and are in construction outfits/attire
Cornerstone General Contractors preconstruction manager Justin McVaney (right) and senior project manager Jonathan Hornak (left) are seen discussing completed work with a carpenter.

Mikel Insalaco

A partially covered alley serves as a pedestrian connection between Kodiak’s waterfront and the indoor shopping center.

Mikel Insalaco

Close-up angle portrait photo outdoor view of a partially covered alley serving as a pedestrian connection between Kodiak's waterfront and the indoor shopping center
From the beginning, the Marketplace’s design seamlessly integrated with the surrounding cityscape while boosting pedestrian connectivity. This led to the inclusion of a paved and partially covered alley within the marketplace’s layout. This alley does more than just elevate the aesthetic appeal of the area; it serves a vital practical function by facilitating smooth and direct pedestrian movement across the block, effectively connecting busy shops to the picturesque harbor. Additionally, the Marketplace introduces a pass-through entrance and exit as part of the goal to improve pedestrian navigation and accessibility.

On the building’s balconies, visitors can sit on benches and look down at the St. Paul boat harbor.

These details mirror a larger commitment focused on community programming, positioning the Marketplace not only as a hub of commerce but also as a catalyst for enhanced pedestrian flow and social interaction.

A Place to Meet
Before the Kodiak Marketplace came into existence, the Kodiak community faced significant limitations due to the absence of a convention center or any traditional large scale meeting spaces. This gap in infrastructure restricted the ability to organize extensive gatherings, such as large-scale community dialogues or industry conferences or conventions, impeding opportunities for communal engagement and professional growth. To transcend these barriers, the venue is equipped with the latest audiovisual technology and has flexible capacity options to accommodate a diverse array of events and functions. This would, in turn, bolster the community’s capacity to convene, exchange ideas, and foster collective advancement.

One goal of the Marketplace is to provide local businesses with affordable and accessible retail spaces. The 63,000-square-foot building seeks to lower the hurdles for small businesses and startups, giving them a platform to expand.

One of the first businesses to announce that it would open in the Marketplace was Bearfoot Bakery. Before hanging a shingle at a mall storefront, co-owners Crystal and Chad Burnside had no retail shop, despite being in business for almost twenty years. The couple set up tables at farmers markets to sell bread, bagels, croissants, and donuts baked in equipment that filled more than two rooms in their house.

The Marketplace aims to be instrumental in creating a dynamic, bustling hub that attracts more foot traffic to downtown Kodiak. This surge in visitors is expected to benefit not just the businesses operating within the Marketplace but also those in its vicinity, generating a beneficial ripple effect that bolsters the overall economic landscape.

Health and Heritage
Before its transformation, the lot that now houses the Kodiak Marketplace played a crucial role as a community health resource. In a novel collaboration between the US Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training program and KANA, the former grocery store was adapted to offer comprehensive healthcare services at no cost to the Kodiak community. This initiative, leveraging the building’s downtown location, highlights the transition of the space from a commercial entity to a foundational element of community welfare.

Extending that earlier vision, the Kodiak Marketplace has transformed into a vibrant hub for showcasing indigenous artistry and traditions by hosting local artisans and cultural events. Incorporating amenities like the Alutiiq Museum’s gift shop within the Marketplace underscores a commitment to preserving cultural heritage. By allocating spaces for indigenous artists, the Marketplace not only contributes to the local economy but also provides artists with an opportunity to share their heritage with a wider audience.

Feedback from the Kodiak community regarding the Marketplace has been positive, according to KANA staff.

“This building coming back and being an anchor seemed to be the revitalization of downtown that we’ve all been hoping for—it’s exceeded all expectations,” says The Islander Bookshop owner Melissa Haffeman, whose small business was one of the first tenants.

The Marketplace’s success in hosting a comprehensive mix of services and spaces—from a conference center with meeting areas and offices for KANA and a post office to an array of shops and services catering to diverse interests—has solidified its status as a community hub. This multifaceted approach has not only supported local businesses but also enriched the lives of Kodiak’s residents.