More than three years after Juneau residents voted against the city providing a grant for a proposed idea to construct a building that would replace the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, known as the New JACC, the city recently gave the OK for advocates to seek funding at the state and federal levels for a project known as the Capital Civic Center, a building that would combine elements of the JACC with Centennial Hall into a new center.
“I’m totally enthusiastic about it,” said Bob Banghart, executive director of the Partnership, the nonprofit that originally advocated and raised millions in funding for the New JACC and has now shifted its focus toward the Capital Civic Center project. “I think it means they have some faith in the effort and an understanding that the building that we came up with is something this community needs to mature into.”
During Thursday evening’s City and Borough of Juneau Committee of the Whole work session, the city was given an update on the project’s concept design which is expected to cost up to $75 million and would include amenities like a theater, community hall, gallery, ballroom and business center.
According to Katie Koester, the CBJ Director of Engineering and Public Works, the project is still in the early stages of consideration but is far enough along that the city can start looking for avenues that would fund the project if it were to be constructed.
“The project is still very much at a concept level but the next step is to be able to secure some funding to bring funding to the next stage,” she said to the Empire.
Centennial Hall’s ballroom, which conceptually would be absorbed into the new project if OK’d, is currently undergoing its first comprehensive renovation since the building opened its doors in the early 1980s.
The funds for the ongoing ballroom project come from a 2019 voter-approved ballot proposition to add a 2% increase in the city’s hotel bed tax for 15 years to go toward improvements to Centennial Hall, along with another proposition that OK’d $7 million in debt to finance the repairs to Centennial Hall.
Those funds are separate from the money that would be needed to construct the proposed civic center.
According to Bruce Botelho, an advocate and member of the Alliance, the next steps for the project will be to submit a capital project submission and information system request to the state for $10 million toward the project. CAPSIS applications are due in mid-February, so Botelho said getting the application submitted will be the first priority.
In addition to the $10 million requested from the state, Banghart said the Alliance plans to submit a request to congress for $35 million in funding and advocate in Washington, D.C., to Alaska Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, both Republicans, and Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat. The Alliance is also planning to seek around $2 million in funding from the Rasmussen and Murdock Foundations, and the city passed a resolution in March 2022 allowing up to $10 million in funding from the city’s passenger fee funds to go toward supporting the project as well.
According to the city’s legislative priority list, once funding is secured for the center, it would take around three years to construct.
“I think we’ll get there, the arts center itself was a controversial issue and I think the efforts of the Alliance have really made it a much stronger project,” Botelho said. “I think it is visionary in the terms of what it will do not only this generation but future generations and the impact it can have in the state.”
The city had already previously appropriated $2 million toward the engineering and design process of the project in December 2021. According to Koester, since then only around $200,000 of it has been spent, mainly going toward the preliminary designs plans and an economic analysis of the proposed project.
Along with the funds being sought at the state and federal levels, Banghart said the Alliance also has local donors that are committed to helping pay for it, along with the Partnership nonprofit itself still having the original funds raised for the New JACC, which reached around $5 million. However, since then Banghart said that a portion of those funds has been spent on staffing the Partnership and advocacy spending.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.