The corner of Egan and Whittier could soon look a lot different, and not just because the traffic control barrels aren’t a permanent installation.
A special City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Public Works and Facilities Committee meeting Tuesday night focused on a proposed new Juneau Arts & Culture Center and renovations to Centennial Hall.
Committee chair and Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale prefaced the meeting by saying there would be no action taken by the committee during the meeting, but discussion would likely shape decisionmaking at a July 1 regular committee meeting.
Paul Voelckers, president and architect for MRV Architects, presented the committee with a recommended concept for Centennial Hall upgrades. MRV was contracted for $50,000 to develop a design for an improved Centennial Hall in early April.
Voelckers said the final recommendation is a combination of four potential schemes previously shared with the public and represented a “relatively modest” addition in space.
“But it picked up the organizational structure that most people really supported, ” Voelckers said. “And that was creating a much more direct lineal access that took from the north parking to the south entry, expanded the foyer, created line-sight control of the operation, and we made some modest additions in breakout space that are critical in both convention use and local agency use.”
In total the project as proposed would include 8,900 square feet of new construction, 5,000 square feet of covered walkways and 5,400 square feet of major renovation. It would also include a connection between the New JACC and Centennial Hall. Recommended site improvements include organizing the Centennial Hall parking lot and a functional Third Avenue.
Voelckers said a conservative estimate for the Centennial Hall’s project cost is just shy of $18 million — about $3 million would go to the West Third Avenue improvements.
The committee did not discuss potential strategies to fund the renovations.
Voelckers said after the study that was just done, it’s apparent renovating is a better value than rebuilding.
“There is significant retained value,” Voelckers said. “You’re spending 40 percent of what you would spend to get equivalent brand new space.”
The New JACC
Bruce Botelho, co-chair for the New JACC fundraising nonprofit the Partnership, came with a cut and dry request of the CBJ — $7.5 million for the proposed new and improved arts and culture center.
Botelho said so far about $5.5 million has been raised for the $26.4 million project. The requested city contribution would bring the project to just about 50-percent funding, which Botelho said would demonstrate the project’s viability and likely trigger additional support.
“No funder is going to go forward with this project if they don’t think it’s going to happen,” Botelho said while addressing the committee.
After the meeting, he said he is “very” confident there would be significant additional funding at that point. He said he would put the odds at 50-50 that support would bring the project to a point that it could break ground.
The $7.5 million ask is close to what was being considered last year, but is less than has been asked for in the past.
“The amount is consistent with, but I must tell you is lower than, the number we approached the council with in 2012 at about $9.4 million,” Botelho said. “Obviously, there’s been a lot of water under the bridge between now and then.”
That includes a 4-3 vote that failed to advance New JACC funding to municipal ballots, and a lot of public meetings.
Both Botelho and Voelckers said the New JACC and Centennial Hall both being managed by the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council and filling complimentary roles may offer some savings.
Voelckers said it’s possible one of the buildings could serve as the location for administrative offices, which would free up space in the other building.
Botelho said the New JACC could be a venue for more breakout space or specialty uses.
“It would be a strong complement to Centennial events,” Botelho said. “I underscore this because I think it shows an economy that justifies the city’s investment in the New JACC because it is money you will not be required to spend in doing a dramatic expansion of Centennial Hall.”
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.