The former Walmart is one possible option for the location of a new city hall for Juneau, according to a recent survey. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

The former Walmart is one possible option for the location of a new city hall for Juneau, according to a recent survey. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Juneau eyes options for new City Hall

From the former Walmart to perched atop a parking garage, there’s options, but no decisions yet.

Results from a recent survey showed that Juneau residents are widely supportive of developing a new City Hall, moving forward from the spaces the city offices currently occupy, including the 70-year-old municipal building.

More than 1,000 Juneau residents responded to the autumn survey, organized by the McKinley Group.

“Three quarters (of those surveyed) are supportive or strongly supportive of new City Hall instead of renting,” said Katie Koester, director of the City and Borough of Juneau Engineering and Public Works Department, who presented the results before the Public Works and Facilities Committee. “City Hall is not just an office building. It’s a place for interacting with your local government.”

The current arrangement involves $750,000 per year in rent, Koester said, as previously reported by the Empire. A new space, whether new-built or adapted from existing space, could consolidate offices and make dealing with the city agencies a one-stop shop.

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Parking and a long service life were both high priorities for the 1,316 respondents to the survey, which ranged across the entire city, according to the survey. Sustainability and green building techniques as well as high energy efficiency were also popular priorities for the city to consider, according to the results, while architectural and visual appeal, as well as having a prominent location were considered low priority by those surveyed.

“Sustainability has become one of our primary missions,” said Assembly member Wade Bryson during the meeting. “Everything we do has to have sustainability.”

Downtown and Thane residents were the most supportive of the move at 79%, according to the survey, but support was above 70% for all geographic areas. About 18% of respondents were opposed or very opposed to developing a new City Hall location.

The most frequent uses the public has for City Hall are interacting with departments and attending public meetings, according to the survey. More than half of respondents reported using Juneau’s City Hall for both, while only 16% reported not using City Hall in the last half-decade. Other common uses were for paying bills and voting.

While a replacement might not necessarily be new build, the survey turned out a several locations for a possible relocation or repurposing. The former Walmart was the most popular choice, with Downtown, Lemon Creek and the Mendenhall Valley trailing in popularity. Geographical areas in Juneau generally voted for a new City Hall to be located closest to their area of residence. Other locations to garner some support include the downtown parking garage and the Bill Ray Center, located near the Juneau Federal Building.

With the list of criteria and some possible sites in hand, Koester said, the committee’s job will be to start narrowing down options.

“We’re going to work on a matrix,” Koester said. “The matrix is informed by a lot of the needs here.”

Residents were more likely to respond the older they were, with the 65-and-older age range accounting for nearly a third of responses. The majority of respondents were Valley residents, at 48% of all answers.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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