Centennial Hall the night of a public meeting about the building’s future, May 7, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Centennial Hall the night of a public meeting about the building’s future, May 7, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

‘We need to beautify this ugly building’: Architects ask public what they want out of Centennial Hall

Public meeting helps with planning for renovations

As Centennial Hall heads toward its first comprehensive renovation in 35 years, designers are mulling over exactly what that makeover will entail.

MRV Architects have been contracted by the City and Borough of Juneau to come up with design options for the event venue and convention center, and Tuesday evening a public meeting was held at Centennial Hall to discuss its strengths and weaknesses.

“It’s kind of fun in a way,” said Paul Voelckers, MRV Architects president and architect, of getting to reimagine a facility that he said has been essentially stuck in the ’80s.

The meeting was attended by about two dozen people, most of whom had either a direct interest in the building or a professionally duty connected to Centennial Hall. This included city officials, architects, Juneau Arts & Humanity Council employees and members — the JAHC manages the city-owned property.

“I’m just happy to see so many people interested in what’s happening at Centennial Hall,” said Mayor Beth Weldon, who was in attendance for most of the meeting.

Opinions from those in the room identified lighting, streamlined controls for the building’s electrical features, appearance, availability of breakout space and its sense of place as weaknesses and things that will need to be improved in order for the space to draw conferences to Juneau.

[Centennial Hall’s needs move into focus]

Sheets outlining the perceived strengths and weakness of Centennial Hall were distributed and collected by those handling the project. The surveys will be made available online through the CBJ and MRV websites, said project manager and city architect Nathan Coffee.

Coffee said comments will likely be accepted throughout May.

“We need to beautify this ugly building,” said former Assembly member Karen Crane during guided conversations about Centennial Hall that made up the majority of the meeting.

Architects said much of the same thing in a less blunt manner during introductory statements.

Zane Jones, architect for MRV Architects, and Voelckers both said Centennial Hall could look more welcoming and instill visitors with a sense of arrival.

Jones said Sitka’s revitalized Sitka’s revitalized Harrigan Centennial Hall with an abundance of windows and views was an example of a venue in Southeast Alaska that made use of modern architecture and local strengths.

“It should be authentic to our place, and it should capture our views,” Voelckers said.

While the project is being approached as a standalone effort, the way Centennial Hall will interact with the proposed New Juneau Arts & Culture Center project was part of the meeting’s discussions.

[Live coverage of Centennial Hall meeting]

“I think everybody understands the potential of joint usership of events that can flow both ways,” Voelckers said.

He said the two projects could be physically linked, which is an option that has been discussed since last year, by something as simple as a covered walkway or a more involved, enclosed and climate controlled shared space.

However, many of the breakout tables including ones featuring JAHC Executive Director Nancy DeCherney and a table featuring Travel Juneau President Liz Perry said it’s important to keep in mind the way Centennial Hall interacts with other nearby, downtown venues.

They said a revitalized Centennial Hall effectively forms a campus with the JACC, Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum and Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.


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


About two dozen people attended a May 7 public meeting about a Centennial Hall design options study. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

About two dozen people attended a May 7 public meeting about a Centennial Hall design options study. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

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