On the eve of its 100th birthday, the Hellenthal Building — more commonly known as the First National Bank Building on Front street — is about to change hands again. First National Bank Alaska, the building’s current owner, has put it up for sale.
“I think it’s a great time to divest of that property,” said Luke Fanning, the bank’s Southeast Alaska vice president. “The core of our business is no longer downtown anymore.”
The core of business is now a little less than a mile away on W. 10th street, where First National Bank recently opened its new building to serve as a hub for the bank’s Southeast operations, Fanning said. The sale of the Hellenthal building, which is situated in downtown’s historic district, is the most recent development in a consolidation effort that the bank started last fall when it began building its new location. Earlier this year, the bank demolished its old Channel Branch, also located on W. 10th street, to make room for the new building’s parking lot.
The L-shaped Hellenthal Building straddles the Triangle Building and has frontage on Front and N. Franklin streets. It contains the now-defunct Palace Theatre and a “rich history,” which Fanning, a life-long Juneauite, said he would like to see restored.
The building was built in 1916, and it holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. It has played host to several different businesses over the years. The bank is now the sole occupant of the almost 6,000-square-feet, three-story building, which contains “a lot of vacant space,” Fanning said. This is because — like so many other buildings downtown — the building has not aged gracefully.
“These were buildings built around the turn of the century, but they haven’t had a lot of work done on them in the last 40 years,” City Lands Manager Greg Chaney said. “To bring them up to current standards would take a lot of investment.”
And the Hellenthal building is no different. Chaney last toured the building about a decade ago, but he said that it was in pretty rough shape the last time he saw it.
“It’s all pretty derelict right now,” Chaney said, describing the building. “The plaster is falling off the walls, and the plumbing isn’t functioning. It’s going to take a lot of capital to make that livable.”
This is exactly what Fanning hopes for the building, however. The city assessor’s office estimates that the land and building are worth about $1.7 million together. The current asking price for the building is $600,000 — which is what the land alone is worth, according to the city assessor.
“It’s a huge building,” Fanning said. “There’s a lot of potential in it, but we’re bankers, not developers. It’s going to take someone with a vision to restore it to what it could be.”
And it has the potential to be something great. There is already one vacant 1,000-square-foot apartment in the building, but Chaney said that — with the right developer and plan — the building could support five or more additional apartments. The building could potentially help ease Juneau’s housing pains, which are at their worst in the downtown area.
“It could make a big difference in revitalizing the downtown core,” Chaney said. “There’s a lot of space that could be used for housing in there. It would be phenomenal.”