Hellenthal Building sold

First National Bank has sold the Hellenthal Building, the site of its former downtown location, to a Juneau couple.

Spickett’s Palace LLC, a recently incorporated company comprising three members, bought the building Friday for an undisclosed amount. The building was listed for $600,000 when it hit the market last November.

Dale Whitney and his partner, Christine Hess — both Juneau lawyers — and David Heier of Palmner, incorporated as Spikett’s Palace on March 3. The name comes from John Spickett, the original owner and operator of the Palace Theater, a part of the Hellenthal Building.

The Hellenthal building has been a prominent feature of Downtown Juneau since it was built 100 years ago. It has frontage on Front and North Franklin streets and straddles the Triangle building. The building contains the defunct Palace Theater, which has been vacant for the past 15 years.

The rest of the building — nearly 13,000 square feet in all, sitting on 6,000 sqaure feet of land — has been vacant for years with the exception of the First National Bank suite. The bank moved out of the building last year, though, leaving the building entirely empty.

The building has fallen into a state of disrepair over the years and will require some heavy renovations, according to the city’s Lands Manager Greg Chaney.

“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,” Chaney told the Empire in November when the building first hit the market. “To bring them up to current standards would take a lot of investment.”

Enter Whitney and Hess. About 10 years ago, Whitney and Hess started buying and “rehabilitating” distressed properties throughout the borough (though most have been in the valley), Whitney told the Empire over the phone Friday afternoon. He decided thereafter to stop practicing law so he could spend more time buying and restoring houses. Since then, he and Hess have fixed up about a dozen houses, Whitney estimates.

Though the Hellenthal Building is certainly distressed, it isn’t their usual gig.

“We have done a lot of work with distressed properties in Juneau, mostly Valley houses and apartments,” Whitney wrote in an email to the Empire. “But we went after this one the minute I saw it was available. I love the buildings in our historic district, and this one is a treasure, maybe the most important historic building still in use. It’s also just a very unusual and cool building.”

Whitney and Hess hope to convert the bank portion of the building — the ground floor facing Front street — into two or three storefronts, which Whitney said is how the building was originally set up. They don’t have any tenants lined up for the space yet.

Down the line, the couple hopes to renovate the upper stories of the building, which could be used for housing. Whitney said he wants to make sure that the project retains the historical character of the building, and he wants to take advantage of the high ceilings and “huge windows” in the upstairs space.

“We have a lot of ideas and there is a lot of potential, but there is also a lot of work to be done and a lot of investment involved,” he wrote. “So we don’t know how long it will be until we realize that vision.”

Whitney said that he and his partner don’t plan on restoring the Palace Theater, the portion of the building visible from North Franklin Street. The theater has been gutted and renovated several times, leaving “very little of the original theater left to restore,” Whitney said. Instead, he said that space could be great for a brewpub, restaurant, art gallery or yoga studio.

“It depends on what kind of tenant we can find, but we would like to see a use consistent with the building’s original purpose, which was a place to go with friends for fun and laughs,” he wrote.

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

Correction: In an earlier version of this article, Spickett’s Palace LLC was spelled incorrectly, and the total square footage of the Hellenthal Building was wrong. The building is about 13,000 square feet. The lot it sits on is about 6,000 square feet. 

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