A Seattle company is considering buying the Gastineau Apartments at Franklin and Front Streets which has been left vacant after a fire on November 5, 2012.

A Seattle company is considering buying the Gastineau Apartments at Franklin and Front Streets which has been left vacant after a fire on November 5, 2012.

Developers to buy, restore Gastineau Apartments

A Seattle company entered into an agreement with the owner of the Gastineau Apartments on Thursday to buy the burned-out buildings.

Public Private Partnership LLC and James Barrett, the owner of the blighted apartments, have entered into a purchase of sale agreement, but “there aren’t new owners yet,” according to City Attorney Amy Mead.

The goal of the project will be to “restore not destroy” the Gastineau Apartments to create 44 affordable-housing units, said Wayne Coogan principal of Coogan-Alaska. Coogan’s company along with James P Hurley of Kenmore, Washington, is going in on the sale with PPP.

“We’re not going to tear it down; we’re going to restore it,” Coogan said. “When the Barretts signed over control of the property that changed the game. Now something can be accomplished.”

According to Coogan, the twice-burned buildings that have caused the city much grief since 2012 still have “significant value” — both economically and historically speaking. The way he sees it the demolition “seemed like a waste.”

“If the city tore it down using tax-payer money, you’d have more than a million dollar lien on a $200,000 piece of property,” he said. “That’s a pretty bleak outlook.”

City Engineering Director Rorie Watt has been inside the Gastineau Apartments several times since they burned and said that renovating the buildings is possible. The concrete superstructure of the building is still stable despite the fire damage, and only one of the apartment buildings ever actually caught fire.

“It’s doable; it’s always doable,” he said. “The question is whether it’s economical.”

Before anything can be done, however, the city must stop the demolition of the apartments, which was slated to begin at some point in the next two weeks. This will require Assembly action, Mead said.

“If we’re going to change course, that direction needs to come from the Assembly,” she said.

Coogan said that his cohorts from Washington will be coming to Juneau to meet with city officials next week. The issue will go to the Assembly for consideration at the next available date, according to Mead.

Watt agreed. “I think where this is all headed is the Assembly meeting on (Nov. 9),” he said.

This sale, which is still tentative at this point, is sure to be a major Assembly discussion soon, but it almost never happened.

The city was supposed to issue a notice to proceed Thursday to CBC Construction, the Sitka contractor who recently won the $1.36 million bid for the demolition of the apartments. Had this notice been given, CBC would’ve been able to begin work, and the city would’ve had to settle with the contractor if it decided to cancel the project.

“If you’re going to terminate a construction contract, earlier is better,” Watt said. “Before the notice to proceed is best.”

As it is, the demolition contract has been put temporarily on hold. This happened before the notice to proceed was given, so if the Assembly decides to pull the project the city will not be forced to pay CBC. And Coogan attributes this to the effort of Assembly member Kate Troll.

At one point, Coogan and Troll sat on the Affordable Housing Commission together. On Wednesday, the deal with the Barretts was close to be completed, but Coogan knew he needed more time to make it happen. He also knew that if the city issued the notice to proceed, he’d have a tougher time having the demolition canceled, so he called Troll who talked to city officials to delay the notice.

“I bought him a day to try and put the deal together, and now we have to evaluate it,” Troll said. She would not comment further since this is now an issue up for Assembly consideration.

“It really boiled down to the hour — down to the minute,” Coogan said. “A bullet was dodged, and if all of this works out, she really did something for housing in this community.”

Though the city won’t have to pay CBC if it does cancel the bid, it has still spent time and money putting the bid package together and planning the demolition. This cost was originally to be rolled in with the lien put on the property after the apartments were destroyed. Watt said he is unsure whether the city will try and recoup this money, which he told the Assembly earlier this year is about 10 percent of the total project cost, if it decides to cancel the bid.

All in all, “it’s another chapter in the soap opera,” Watt said with a laugh.

• Contact reporter Sam DeGrave at 523-2279 or at sam.degrave@juneauempire.com.

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