Alaskan Tribe Breaks Ground on Impressive Education Venue

By SCN Staff

KENAI, Alaska—The Kenaitze Indian Tribe recently broke ground on its newest education center in Kenai. The center focuses on the Tribal Council’s commitment to building a tribally owned, culturally appropriate education campus that consolidates core educational components and programs in one state-of-the-art, central facility. Design of the educational center is being led by a local team of architects and engineers from the Anchorage office of integrated design firm, Stantec. Blazy Construction is the general contractor.

The new, 65,000-square-foot education center will include two wings. A basement and two-story education wing will house classrooms, meeting rooms, and administrative offices. The first floor will host Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms, dedicated to strengthening early learning programs through advocacy, education, and leadership. The second floor will feature open classroom space, and administrative offices will be in the basement.

The second wing will house a multi-purpose room designed to meet the needs of the Tribe’s various programs. It will feature an elevated running track and will be able to host large events of up to 300 people. A central indoor plaza will serve as a main entrance lobby and a connector between the two wings.

The building exterior is modern with clean and defined design lines, while referencing the values and traditions of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe. A custom aluminum panel pattern at the round connector space references salmon skin, and accents of wood reclaimed from the community’s historic cannery represent the Tribe’s longstanding fishing traditions. The landscape features are an integral part of the design, with concrete plaza scorings mimicking the Kenai River. Plantings are strategically placed to bring the outdoors visually into the library and the multipurpose room.

“We’re honored to collaborate with the Kenaitze Indian Tribe and lead the design for their education center,” said Giovanna Gambardella, Stantec’s project manager based in Anchorage. “Our goal is to deliver a design that fits the Tribe’s vision to host our community’s most important asset: children and youth. Together with the Tribe, we designed a facility tailored to its community needs and values by creating a safe space for children, parents, educators, families, and elders to enjoy.”

The facility is at the intersection of South Forest Drive and the Kenai Spur Highway, just across the street from the National Guard armory. The education center will be near City of Kenai land and a municipal park, and is an easy walk from the Kenai beach.

Stantec is providing all key building disciplines, including architectural and civil, structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering. Stantec also completed an environmental assessment of the site. Nancy Casey Planning and Design, a Kenai-based landscape architect, collaborated closely with Stantec’s interior designer Carel Nagata and civil engineer Jake Alward to tie exterior elements to the interiors. The project is expected to be complete in late 2021.

The Kenaitze Indian Tribe was federally recognized as a sovereign, independent nation in 1971 under the Indian Reorganization Act as amended for Alaska. Today, the tribe has more than 1,600 tribal members who live across the Kenai Peninsula and beyond; it employs about 300 full-time and part-time employees.