Sealaska Heritage Institute wants to build an arts campus downtown, and the private nonprofit wants financial support from the city to do it.
Rosita Worl, SHI president, presented information about the project to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Committee of the Whole Monday. It’s currently planned to be built in the Sealaska parking lot, and Worl requested $1.5 million in support over the next two years.
“We at Sealaska Heritage Institute are grateful to the city and the borough for your continued partnership, your leadership and commitment to artistic growth and collaboration,” Worl said. “Together we can continue to build the foundation for Juneau to become the Northwest Coast arts capital of the world.”
After the meeting, Worl said it did not matter how much of the $1.5 million was shared each year.
“However the city can work it out,” Worl said.
Mayor Beth Weldon said the matter would be moved to the finance committee.
The Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus is planned to be a 6,000-square-foot project with both indoor and outdoor space for artists, according to Worl’s presentation.
The project would include an underground parking lot, which would offset the loss of parking that currently exists above ground. The plans also call for nine new surface parking spaces.
Assembly member Greg Smith said it would make the Assembly’s job easier if the underground parking was accessible to the public.
Worl said it was something that would be looked at.
Assembly member Wade Bryson asked how the property would be secured in its off hours.
Worl said SHI currently has cameras places all around the Walter Soboleff Building and works closely with the Juneau Police Department. Additionally, she said more security measures are being considered.
“Including the placement of security guards around our facilities,” she said.
The project is expected to cost a total of $12.75 million, and Worl said it is about 80% funded. Last year, it was announced SHI received a $5.6 million federal grant for the project. Other grants and donations account for the other funding the project has received.
Worl said a ceremonial groundbreaking is planned to take place during Celebration 2020, the every-other-year celebration of Southeast Alaska Native culture and art that will take place in early June.
If the Assembly ultimately approves the funding, it wouldn’t be the first time CBJ helped fund an SHI project. In 2012, the city OK’d $3 million in funding for the $20 million construction of the Walter Soboleff Building.
Worl said after the meeting while SHI is not a public entity, the Walter Soboleff Building is the site of many open-to-the-public events, and there has been collaboration with other Juneau organizations to hold events in the building.
During the meeting, Worl touted SHI’s financial impact on Juneau and support of local education. A McDowell Group study previously found in 2018 SHI added $9.2 million to the capital city’s economy and $10.4 million to the state economy.
Worl said the project would also help SHI work to further establish two-year and four-year Northwest Coast arts certificates and degrees with University of Alaska Southeast and the Institute of American Indian Arts and help with other goals.
“We will offer a space where the public can learn about Alaska Native and Northwest Coast cultures and enhance cross-cultural understanding,” Worl said, “and also establish Juneau as the Northwest Coast arts capital and an economic engine for the region.”