The Sealaska Heritage Institute’s downtown arts campus is under construction, Sept. 3, 2020. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

The Sealaska Heritage Institute’s downtown arts campus is under construction, Sept. 3, 2020. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

New arts campus construction proceeding on schedule

Work continues without presence of more than a million visitors.

As many residents of downtown Juneau and Douglas are likely aware, construction downtown on Sealaska Heritage Institute’s arts campus has entered a new and energetically noisy phase.

“Things are going fairly well,” said Lee Kadinger, SHI’s chief of operations. “We’ll spend the next couple weeks driving pile around the perimeter of the campus.”

The piles are being driven in to shore up the edges of the area SHI will have excavated, Kadinger said, as turning a street into a pit often offends. The process will be wrapped up in several weeks, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

“We haven’t come across any obstacles,” Kadinger said. “When we did the Walter Soboleff Building, we encountered some old logs 15 feet down that created obstruction.”

SHI is working with Dawson Construction, a Bellingham, Washington-based construction company with substantial presence in Juneau who helped construct SHI’s Walter Soboleff Building, which is located across the street from the home of the progressing Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus.

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“They have experience working with the site conditions. They know fairly well what to expect,” Kadinger said. “They’re a pretty large local presence. All of our major subcontractors are from Juneau.”

The project’s biggest difficulty will be the perennial enemy of any construction in Juneau — the cold.

“It’ll be a several-month process of digging before we begin pouring concrete. We’re racing against the freeze,” Kadinger said. “If it gets cold pretty early in October, we’ll have to look at things like tenting and heating.”

The project is mostly but not fully funded. So far about $10.4 million of the projected $13.2 million has been raised. It was launched last month to simply get it started, as well as to help stimulate the local economy, Kadinger said. Construction on the currently funded portions of the campus is slated for completion mid-to-late summer of 2021.

“We’re doing a phased approach where we can complete a majority and add on other elements as the funding comes in,” Kadinger said. “We decided it’s best for Juneau and the community to move forward. It creates 55 well-paying jobs and that helps the economy.”

The economy may receive a small boost very soon, Kadinger said, as increasing numbers of construction workers onsite downtown search for ready sources of food and coffee.

“We ask business owners to please be patient. More business will be coming as we staff up the project,” Kadinger said. “With all the street closures happening, it is creating some congestion issues as we close down some more streets. If there’s any year to do this in the least disruptive way, this is that year, without having a million people wandering an active construction site.”

Still, Kadinger said, feedback has been positive.

“Seeing kind of a dream come reality is always exciting. It’s still a little nervewracking when we’re in the opening stages here, and we’re wrapping up the funding of the project,” Kadinger said. “The community of Juneau is extremely excited. We’ve had a stream of positive comments coming in.”

While SHI is still looking for additional funding from the City and Borough of Juneau to complete the project, without the community, it would have been impossible to even begin, Kadinger said. The CBJ Finance Committee tabled a request for a further $2.5 million for a future vote at a meeting Wednesday

“I want to thank the community for their support. I want to thank the Assembly members. I think they’ve been extremely supportive of this vision,” Kadinger said. “If not for the community members and the Assembly, none of this would be here.”

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

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