A revamped Centennial Hall and a New Juneau Arts & Culture Center could one day be housed in the same two-story building, but the concept is in its infancy.
The possibility was one idea for the futures of the convention center and the arts and culture venue discussed Wednesday during a special meeting of the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Public Works and Facilities Committee.
The meeting was an informal panel discussion among committee members and representatives from the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce, Travel Juneau, the New JACC partnership and CBJ Parks and Recreation Building Maintenance.
The New JACC is a proposed replacement for the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, which was built in 1959. Centennial Hall is an event venue and convention center containing a gallery owned by the city and managed by Juneau Arts & Humanities Council.
The combined New JACC and Centennial Hall concept, which would be mutually exclusive from the long-discussed standalone New JACC, was presented by Liz Perry, President and CEO for Travel Juneau.
“This is a draft concept that again we were asked to produce,” Perry said of a conceptual drawing of a two-floor combined New JACC and Centennial Hall. “There’s not any engineering behind it.”
“It’s a step up from being done on the back of a napkin,” she added after the meeting.
Perry said the sketch came at the request of both the New JACC Partnership and Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon and has been in existence for less than a month.
That meant there was little in the way of concrete information regarding the idea such as how long the project would take to complete or when it would be ready to break ground.
“I don’t have an answer for that,” Perry said when asked by Assembly member Rob Edwardson. “That is an engineering department question. Certainly we’re way behind the efforts of the New JACC partnership.”
The Centennial Hall-New JACC concept came with some support from the chamber, which was represented at the meeting because of past concerns about how the New JACC could impact sales tax or property tax, parking and general interest in what happens to Centennial Hall, said chamber Executive Director Craig Dahl.
Bud Carpeneti, New JACC Partnership board member, said the New JACC board has not yet discussed the conceptual sketch that combined features both the New JACC and Travel Juneau covet but also omitted some features, such as a gallery, on the New JACC wishlist.
He said it was tough to form an opinion on the possible New JACC alternative because of a lack of concrete detail. However, combining the entities into a single building could be tough during construction, Carpeneti said.
“Putting everything together would mean we’re without any facilities for two to three years, and I think that’s not going to work,” Carpeneti said.
Carpeneti also discussed the long-gestating standalone New JACC concept, which he said has been in the works for about six years and comes with an estimated price tag of $26.4 million. The project is 19 percent of the way to raising those funds, according to the New JACC website.
However, it was the less-established joint concept that sparked the most discussion.
A third option was mentioned in the meeting’s agenda, but not spoken about at length during the actual meeting.
Carpeneti said that option would be two separately renovated or reconstructed buildings joined by an atrium or some sort of substantial, covered and connecting structure.
Perry said it’s important that one way or another something be done to make Centennial Hall more attractive because as it is, the hall is becoming more difficult to pitch to people planning meetings and conventions.
“In the last several years we’ve run into a Centennial Hall that’s aging, and it’s aging inside and out,” Perry said. ”We want it to be a jewel of downtown, and it just is not that right now.”
Regardless of which option is chosen, new facilities will likely come with an increased maintenance cost.
Assembly member Wade Bryson asked if there would be maintenance savings realized by new projects.
Michele Elfers, deputy director for CBJ Parks and Recreation, said there would likely be increased spending on maintenance and generally new buildings require 2 or 3 percent of the cost of the building in maintenance annually.
Elfers said currently about $100,000 is spent maintaining Centennial Hall annually.
For a $26.4 million project that would work out to be $792,000.
“We’re not maintaining our facilities right now to that 3 percent standard,” she said. “We’re probably close to that 1 percent.”
Another certainty is that conversation about Centennial Hall and JACC improvements won’t be going away.
Future meetings are scheduled for April and will cover funding scenarios, ownership options and eventually public testimony.
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.