EAGLE RIVER (KTUU) - After the November 30th Earthquake, 2019 was spent in large part recovering from the disaster. It’s a new year with a new attitude in the Chugiak Eagle River area according to Debbie Rinckey, Executive Director of the local Chamber of Commerce.
“I think 2020 is going to be a great year of promise. We’re seeing a lot of rebuilding, construction, we have a lot of road work going on, and we’ve got – quite a few actually – new businesses popping up everywhere,” Rinckey said.
The new development is quite visible to those driving through Eagle River along the Old Glenn highway. Much of it is for continuing repairs to old businesses like the McDonald’s, which Rinckey said is planned to finally reopen the second or third week of February.
However, many of the construction projects are for brand new buildings. One of them is the Planet Fitness which is nearing completion. Kristin Helvey has been working with the new gym as an outreach contractor.
“There was nothing in this lot before the Earthquake,” she said, “the Earthquake really caused a lot of damage around the city and I think it was hard to see a lot of buildings and homes broken down, but to us this is part of the bright side of what’s come out of that event.”
Helvey said the planet fitness is set to open its doors on Feb. 1st. Before they officially open, she said those interested can sign up in the trailer parked out front of the building.
She also said that Planet Fitness is preparing to be a driving force in the Chugiak Eagle River area with a number of upcoming local programs and partnerships.
“Within the schools, with other businesses, the Chamber,” she said, “So we’re just really excited to see where that takes us as just a business but also as members of this community.”
Some new businesses are coming up where old ones fell as a result of the Earthquake. Where the pawn shop next to Mike’s Music was, Jason Hemphill is getting a new wine bar ready for customers
Right now, it’s a building covered in plywood, but by the time mid-summer comes around, Hemphill said ‘Corks and Hops Wine Bar’ is going to be something he feels the area doesn’t have enough of.
“Something a little more casual, maybe a nice date night spot with fine wine and great beer and great food,” he said.
Hemphill said he’s had 18 years of experience in liquor distribution and bought Garcia’s from the original owners. However, this is the first time he’s building something essentially from the ground up, which he’s excited about doing.
He says his reasons are two-fold. One, because he’s ready to get the wine bar going as a business, but two, he wants to help better the community he’s been a part of since his teenage years.
“It’s kind of just the rebuilding, and the growth of Eagle River,” he said, “I think that when you take something that came from despair and tragedy and turn it into something new and vibrant and exciting it’s good for the community.”