Correction: An earlier version of this article ran with a photo of buildings that will not be demolished. The buildings shown were actually acquired by the City and Borough of Juneau, not the University of Alaska Southeast. The article has been changed to include the photo of the correct building.
The Auke Bay lab formerly owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is set to be demolished this fall, making room for a new, more modern lab to be used by the University of Alaska Southeast.
According to a posting on the State of Alaska website, the state is now accepting bids for the demolition of the old lab. Bids will be open until 2 p.m. Aug. 9, the posting states, and the demolition process could begin by Sept. 15.
UAS Vice Chancellor for Administration Michael Ciri said in an interview Thursday that the timeline for building the new lab is “aggressive,” and that he hopes the building will have students in it by the fall 2020 semester. The plan, he said, is to make a building where all the natural sciences can be together.
Ciri said the idea of consolidating the natural sciences offices and labs has been on the table since the university’s 2012 master plan was released. They were still thinking about how to do that when the NOAA lab went up for sale a few years later.
“We couldn’t imagine that NOAA property would become available,” Ciri said.
The City and Borough of Juneau and UAS were both attempting to buy the land, and the two sides reached an agreement in August 2017 to split the property. CBJ is using its part of the property to improve Don D. Statter Harbor at Auke Bay with enhanced moorage and a larger breakwater.
The current NOAA lab, Ciri said, was built in the 1950s and is not very energy efficient. Employing the help of outside building specialists, the university did studies about whether it would be more cost-efficient to renovate the building or simply tear it down and start over again. The conclusion was to build the new facility.
According to design documents available on the UAS website, the project is expected to cost $13 million. Half of that money is from a loan from the overall University of Alaska system. About $2 million of the funding comes from the university’s sale of its former bookstore, located just by the harbor. Other funding sources include leftover money from other projects, the UAS operating budget and a fund specifically kept for funding large projects like this.
“It’s an interesting thing because conventional wisdom says, ‘Budgets are tight, why would you think about doing this now?’ Part of this is you need to be innovative,” Ciri said. “If you wait until everything looks rosy, you’re going to be late on the dime.”
The sale of the bookstore and the consolidation of natural sciences facilities fit together into the university’s overall plan of becoming more efficient, Ciri said. He said the university will cut down its property by about 18,000 square feet over the next couple years with moves like this to make the campus more efficient.
Ciri said the university is open to talk with philanthropic or private donors about naming rights, and university officials are brainstorming ways to make the facility more open to the public.
The building itself, according to renderings made public by the university, is expected to have a modern look with a good amount of natural light. Ciri laughed as he said he appreciated that the artist’s renderings of the final product were set on cloudy days.
Even with Juneau’s weather cutting down on visibility, Ciri said the location of the new building is tough to beat.
“It’s really going to be one of the best views in town,” Ciri said.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.