The future of the old Glory Hall building on South Franklin Street is in a state of uncertainty, with permitting to refit the interior to affordable housing denied by the City and Borough of Juneau. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

The future of the old Glory Hall building on South Franklin Street is in a state of uncertainty, with permitting to refit the interior to affordable housing denied by the City and Borough of Juneau. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Struggle to repurpose Glory Hall as affordable housing continues

The Glory Hall plans to continue the fight to get permitted.

With the new Glory Hall structure in place near the airport taking up the role of shelter, the organization maintaining the building was left with a question: what to do with the old building?

But upon applying for a permit to refit the inside of the old structure located on South Franklin Street into several apartments, Mariya Lovishchuk, executive director of the shelter, was unpleasantly surprised to find their permit application denied.

“It’s really frustrating. We’re in the middle of a housing crisis,” Lovishchuk said in a phone interview. “This is very frustrating. The supply chain issues are not getting better. The longer we wait, the more expensive it’s going to get.”

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The permit was blocked on the grounds of a qualifications of residences and density said Mary Alice McKeen, acting pro bono as attorney for the Glory Hall. The city can’t comment on the issue with the appeal process ongoing, said city planning manager Scott Ciambor in an email.

“My legal opinion is the project should go forward because it doesn’t increase density,” McKeen said. “There’s an ordinance that says development in this area cannot increase density. It doesn’t increase density when you look at one building to one building.”

The density of dwelling units will technically increase, McKeen said, going from zero to seven in the plan for the renovated Glory Hall, which would have six efficiencies and a single bedroom apartment.

Floor plans of the third floor of the old Glory Hall, proposed for refit as affordable housing, show multiple efficiencies in place of the current arrangement. (Screenshot)

Floor plans of the third floor of the old Glory Hall, proposed for refit as affordable housing, show multiple efficiencies in place of the current arrangement. (Screenshot)

“The key thing is the definition of dwelling unit in Title 49, which is our land use code. A dwelling unit is residential use where a family has individual sleeping, cooking and bathroom facilities,” McKeen said. “The former shelter had zero dwelling units because the shelter had no individual sleeping, eating or bathroom areas.”

The zero-to-seven individual dwellings number that’s acting as a hangup for the permitting is misleading, McKeen said.

“Our position is that this is an unreasonable and arbitrary definition of density because it says this property owner can’t put rental units in the property because the inhabitants before had to share bathroom, kitchens and sleeping areas,” McKeen said. “It really doesn’t look at the facts of the situation. It’s unusual that there’s one big dwelling that houses 40 to 53 people, but that’s the facts.”

The proposed refit would cost $1.1 million, McKeen said, and is purely internal work with no external changes. The city had already approved a $300,000 grant from the Juneau Affordable Housing Fund, McKeen said, but if the permit is denied, that grant will go to nought.

The Glory Hall is currently in the process of appealing the denied permit from the Community Development Department to the Planning Commission. The next event, which is open to the public though not for public comment, will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

“It’s not open to public testimony. The two lawyers will present their oral arguments,” McKeen said. “We’re encouraging people to come.”

The permit will not be decided Tuesday night, McKeen said, but might involve further dealing with the appeal process.

“We understand the process might go on for longer. We’re willing to go as long as the process takes,” Lovishchuk said. “We believe downtown needs more housing. Every unit counts, and we need to do our part. Our part is developing this project.”

Development will have to restart if the permit is issued, McKeen said. Donors will have be contacted once the Glory Hall has a permit in hand and the contractors realigned.

“If the Glory Hall had gotten a decision in October, (the apartments) would be built now,” McKeen said. “They had a contractor lined up, they had possible funding.”

More information about attending the Planning Commission meeting or viewing it on Zoom is available at the Planning Commission’s page.

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

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