Assembly to vote on warming center funds, examine affordable downtown housing

City officials hope to have a warming center set up in just nine days, and the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly will vote on whether to approve funds for it at tonight’s meeting.

The goal is to provide a warm place for up to 25 individuals to sleep, and to have it up and running by Nov. 15 and run for 100 nights. The estimated cost for the project is $75,000, most of which would go to staffing. According to estimates from CBJ Finance Director Bob Bartholomew, the city could pull the funds from tobacco tax revenue, saying that there’s as much as $200,000 available.

At the Oct. 23 Committee of the Whole meeting, City Manager Rorie Watt said the Public Safety Building on Whittier Street was the top choice for the warming center. This past Friday, CBJ Housing Coordinator Scott Ciambor said that’s still the case.

The Alaska Mental Health Trust owns that building, which is empty except for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension. There is empty office space there that could be utilized for staff to use offices and cots to be installed.

The meeting, taking place at 7 p.m. in the Assembly chambers at City Hall, will begin with a moment of silence for U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jacob M. Sims. Sims, a Juneau man, died of wounds sustained in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in late October.

The meeting is scheduled to end with a topic that could have long-term effects on downtown housing. Eagle Rock Ventures, a real estate investment and development firm, has long expressed interest in purchasing a plot of land at the corner of Second and Franklin Streets.

ERV intends on building affordable housing on that spot, though its estimate of the number of units in the building has gone up and down over the past few months. The current proposal from ERV to the city is building 34 studio apartments and six one-bedroom apartments.

“I see this as super beneficial,” Ciambor said of the development, adding that there are numerous housing needs in Juneau and this would increase affordable downtown living options.

ERV is currently in the process of earning financing from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. The LIHTC program helps finance construction costs for organizations that are building affordable rental housing for low-income households, and ERV hopes to qualify.

ERV has entered into a Purchase and Sales Agreement with the city to eventually purchase the lot, but that agreement expires in March 2018. To qualify for the LIHTC program, properties must have an agreement in place through May 2018. A memo from Ciambor requests that the Assembly extend this agreement until May 2018, and the Assembly will vote on that at Monday’s meeting.

Ciambor said other projects in town have benefitted from the LIHTC program, including the Terraces at Lawson Creek housing units in Douglas that opened last year and the Trillium Landing senior living center in the Mendenhall Valley that opened just this fall.

The Uptown Neighborhood Association in particular has expressed concerns about this housing project, asserting that bringing more people in that area would make the task of parking downtown even more difficult than it already was.

Ciambor said this is a valid concern, but that ERV has reduced the amount of units in the building from its original estimates earlier this year. The plan at one point was 130 single-room occupancy units in the building, which prompted the Uptown Neighborhood Association to write a letter to the Assembly asking them to work with ERV to reduce that number. Now, that number of units sits at 40.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com.


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