Centennial Hall during the afternoon on Monday, July 2, 2018. (Gregory Philson | Juneau Empire File)

Centennial Hall during the afternoon on Monday, July 2, 2018. (Gregory Philson | Juneau Empire File)

Centennial Hall’s needs move into focus

Project would help guide New JACC conversations

A plan is in motion to determine what improving Centennial Hall entails.

An overhaul to the convention center and event venue is part of conversations surrounding the proposed New Juneau Arts & Culture Center project. But while the replacement for the current JACC has years of research behind it, the specifics of a Centennial Hall renovation or rebuild aren’t filled in.

That’s where a Centennial Hall Conceptual Option study outlined Tuesday night during a special City and Borough of Juneau Public Works and Facilities Committee comes in.

“The idea is we know a lot about what the New JACC needs are, we don’t know a lot about what Centennial Hall needs are,” said Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale, committee chairwoman. “The idea of this contract and the resulting public meetings and presentations are just to inform us what those needs are. What we’re trying to do on the committee is bring it forward a couple of steps so we can bring it back to the Assembly as a whole.”

The contract she referenced is a $50,000 agreement with MRV Architects, which has developed a six-step plan for Centennial Hall design. Funding for the study came from a fund transfer approved at an April 8 Public Works and Facilities Committee meeting.

Hale said the effort is a digression from the committee re-examining potentially bringing public funding options for the New JACC to municipal ballots, but it will help inform discussions.

The Centennial Hall study plan as outlined by Paul Voelckers, MRV Architects president and architect, included identification of space needs, initial conceptual design options, construction estimate, option analysis, selection and graphic refinement of conceptual options and cost estimates for construction and operational expenses.

The last step is slated for June 14-20, according to a plan shared by Voelckers, and he said the goal of the study is to produce a “shopping list” of Centennial Hall improvement options.

There would also be multiple public presentations with an initial event scheduled for the evening of May 7 at Centennial Hall.

Assembly members and Voelckers discussed the scope of the study.

Assembly member Rob Edwardson asked if there would be time to voice support for a standalone New JACC project that is not combined with Centennial Hall plans.

[Could a shared building be the answer for the New JACC and Centennial Hall?]

“I’m not warming up to the idea as a combined facility,” he said.

Hale said there may be time for that and discussions of what entity will own the future New JACC at later meetings.

Voelckers also provided some additional insight into the focus of the study.

“The focus is on a standalone Centennial Hall,” Voelckers said. “We’re not changing the design of the New JACC at all. We’re not trying to excessively comingle the facilities.”

He said there are some obvious ways the two projects could be linked, including a physical connection between two buildings, and that will be considered. Determining the viability of a previously discussed two-floor combined New JACC-Centennial Hall concept is not goal of the study.

Assembly member Wade Bryson asked why the single-building option for Centennial Hall and the JACC was not being considered as part of the study.

CBJ Engineering and Public Works Director Mike Vigue said the relatively short duration of the contract and its budget it made sense to not “bog it down” with a more expansive focus.

Hale referenced a simile made by Assembly member Carole Triem, who compared the New JACC and Centennial Hall projects to swimming and diving in that they’re wholly separate entities that are linked in public consciousness.

[New report brings good news for New JACC]

Water sport metaphors were common throughout the meeting.

“We do have two different user facilities, but it does not require we build two pools,” Bryson said. “That’s where I thought the study might come into play. We’ll just study what the Centennial Hall absolute needs are.”

Assembly members said the study’s Centennial Hall-specific focus doesn’t necessarily exclude that option, but Voelckers said after only about a week into the project, it seems the two buildings would work together without creating inefficiencies.

“I don’t think there will be a redundancy,” he said.

• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com.

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