Centennial Hall improvements could be getting less mysterious

Making sense of Centennial Hall.

Centennial Hall during the afternoon on Monday, July 2, 2018. Centennial Hall’s day-to-day operations are now being handled by Juneau Arts & Humanaties Council. (Gregory Philson | Juneau Empire File)

Centennial Hall during the afternoon on Monday, July 2, 2018. Centennial Hall’s day-to-day operations are now being handled by Juneau Arts & Humanaties Council. (Gregory Philson | Juneau Empire File)

An assessment of Centennial Hall could help bring the event venue and conference center’s present and future into clearer focus.

The City and Borough of Juneau Public Works and Facilities Committee recommended a fund transfer Monday afternoon that could help pay for an assessment to help fill in details about the state of Centennial Hall.

“There’s been some concerns raised about the long-term condition of Centennial Hall, and the usefulness of it and the way it’s laid out,” said Engineering and Public Works Director Mike Vigue during the committee’s meeting. “What we want to do is put this funding together and figure out what is the overall condition of Centennial Hall.”

Concerns have lately been raised as part of the discussions surrounding the proposed New Juneau Arts & Culture Center.

Centennial Hall and the current JACC share a parking lot, and Centennial Hall is managed by Juneau Arts & Humanities Council, which is based out of the JACC. Additionally, there has been discussion since last year of ways to connect Centennial Hall to the JACC.

At a March 27 meeting, there was even public discussion of the two projects sharing a roof.

[Could New JACC and Centennial Hall be the same building?]

The New JACC project has years of plans, artist renderings and a fundraising record.

“We don’t have anything like that for Centennial Hall,” said Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale, the committee’s chair.

Vigue said a transfer pending Assembly approval of $35,000 from a deferred building maintenance fund to a fund containing $24,652 left from roof repairs for Centennial Hall would provide money to be used to work with a local architecture firm to answer some questions.

Assembly member Wade Bryson, one of the committee’s members, asked if the $59,642 total would be sufficient.

“What we’re looking at is a short-term effort to get started,” Vigue said. “I don’t think we have to go through as extensive of an effort as the New JACC Partnership did because they were building a brand new building.”

[New report brings good news for the New JACC]

Assembly member Rob Edwardson, one of the committee’s members, asked if Assembly members would be able to submit questions prior to the assessment.

“For example, what if it’s decided this is going to be a combined effort, but halfway through the JACC decides they can no longer run Centennial Hall?” Edwardson asked. “There’s not just architectural questions, there’s more than engineering questions.”

Vigue said he’d be happy to have those conversations, and answering those questions would be the intent of an assessment.

Assembly member Carole Triem, one of the committee’s members, said she’s reluctant to lump the two projects together.

“I think we’ve been a little bit steamrolled into combining the two projects,” Triem said. “I want it to be a very deliberate choice that the Assembly makes.”

Hale agreed that they are two separate projects.

“My intent is certainly that we’re not talking about a combined project,” Hale said. “We’re talking about what makes sense. They’re two separate projects. What are the needs of Centennial Hall anyway? We don’t have that information.”

• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

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