This is a preliminary design concept of the proposed new City Hall estimated to cost $43.3 million. (Courtesy / City and Borough of Juneau)

This is a preliminary design concept of the proposed new City Hall estimated to cost $43.3 million. (Courtesy / City and Borough of Juneau)

Ballot Proposition 1: $27 million in bond debt for a new City Hall

The question heads to voters this upcoming municipal election for the second time.

This article has been moved in front of the Juneau Empire’s paywall.

Ballot Proposition 1 — the only one on the ballot this fall — asks voters whether to approve $27 million in bond debt to fund the construction of a new City Hall, estimated to cost a total of $43.3 million.

The proposition closely mirrors a similar City Hall proposal that appeared on the ballot during the last election, asking voters to approve $35 million in bond debt for the City Hall project. That proposal was narrowly shot down with 4,394 “yes” votes versus 4,640 “no” votes — a 246-vote difference.

Here is a breakdown of the basic information about the proposal as presented by the city.

What: The new City Hall is proposed as a 46,200-square-foot building that, once constructed, would include new Assembly Chambers, public meeting rooms, public restrooms and public parking. City officials say the building would accommodate and consolidate about 160 municipal employees currently dispersed across five downtown buildings.

Where: The proposed building would move the location of the current City Hall from South Seward Street over to 450 Whittier St., across the street from the state museum.

Many locations for a new City Hall have been pitched in recent years. However, city officials argue the construction of a new City Hall at the Whittier Street site is “the fiscally responsible choice.”

People walk past the current City Hall downtown in late June. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

People walk past the current City Hall downtown in late June. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

“The market for commercial office space tightened significantly in the last year with the sale of the Walmart building and other downtown properties,” the city website states. “Professional analysis found that there are no existing commercial properties that could accommodate CBJ staff and necessary services without displacing other tenants and/or requiring cost-prohibitive renovations. A more competitive real estate market is also contributing to both lower interest rates and the potential for higher rent costs.”

Cost: The project’s total estimated cost is $43.3 million. The city has already appropriated $16.3 million for the project, including a $10 million allocation in the city budget passed in June and $6.3 million appropriated by the Assembly in June of 2022.

The proposition asks residents whether to approve $27 million in bond debt — at an estimated 4.77% interest rate — to cover the remaining estimated cost of the building, which would be paid off over the course of 25 years if approved.

Why: According to city data, the current City Hall building requires more than $14 million in known repairs and maintenance to continue operating in the building, which houses about 40% of city employees. The remaining 60% of employees are housed at four other office spaces the city currently rents, spending about $820,000 annually on rent at those facilities.

City officials say the new building would permanently consolidate all its employees and services, allowing it to no longer rent those four buildings. More information about the proposition provided by the city can be found on its website under “Juneau’s City Hall Situation.”

Read past coverage of the topic linked below:

“City Funds $50K advocacy initiative for new City Hall”

“City manager: A new City Hall ‘just makes financial sense’”

“Campaign group forms to oppose new City Hall, criticizes Assembly’s ‘out-of-touch’ attitude”

“Proposal to fund a new City Hall to hit the ballot — again”

What readers are saying

The ballot proposition has generated many My Turns and letters to the editor over the past few weeks. You can find My Turns here and letters to the editor here.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651) 528-1807.

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