Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file

Opinion: Now is the time for a new City Hall

Here’s why.

  • By Jim Clark
  • Wednesday, September 28, 2022 6:27pm
  • Opinion

Now is the time for a new City Hall. I encourage my fellow community members to vote yes on Proposition 1 to allow for the construction of a new City Hall. The current proposed location is 450 Whittier St., between the state museum and Centennial Hall. The location and timing has combined to make this the right project right now.

Juneau’s City Hall workers and services are currently dispersed among five downtown locations that provide 49,936 square feet of space for 164 CBJ staff. Four of these locations are rented by the city. There is an estimated $12.7 million in deferred maintenance that will need to be invested the CBJ-owned City Hall building to keep it functional. So between annual rent and maintenance, we will be paying regardless, even if we don’t build a new building.

The timing and location of the new city hall provide the potential of a larger vision/collaboration that is serendipitous. There are several other projects with potential partner organizations in the same area, the Aak’w Village District (formally known as the Willoughby District).

1. The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska has recently purchased two state buildings in the area (the DEC and DNR buildings) and has suggested it will be undertaking a planning process on redevelopment of the buildings.

2. The Juneau Arts & Culture Center is working toward having sufficient funds to raze the old building and construct a new one in the area. The proposed 44,500-square-foot facility would include a theater, event studio; and additional elements, such as a café, gallery, an atrium, a gift shop, and office spaces.

3. Centennial Hall. Centennial Hall is also going to be remodeled, and some of the meeting spaces can be developed to also meet overflow needs of a new city hall. Parking for Centennial and the JACC can also be planned in conjunction with each other, to minimize requirements, and maximize use of the space.

4. Huna Totem. Norwegian Cruise Lines recently gifted 2.9 acres of Juneau waterfront land, known as the Subport, to Huna Totem. Should plans to build a new cruise ship dock at that location be successful, Juneau’s largest cruise ships would be docking directly across the street from the district. Plans are currently to develop pedestrian access so that visitors could access both the new JACC and the State Museum (a 0.1-mile distance). Huna Totem plans to work with Juneau-based Goldbelt, Inc. and other Alaska Native corporations to complete the project.

5. State. The state of Alaska has parking garage work to do and is a potential partner for larger scale parking consolidation, so that surface parking could potentially be eliminated or significantly reduced.

With all the projects (City Hall, JACC, Centennial Hall, Huna Totem, Seawalk, Tlingit & Haida area redevelopment) happening at the same time – we have an opportunity that only comes along once every 100 years to develop a comprehensive, collaborative plan for the area that could benefit all of these groups and makes it the perfect time to make City Hall part of the same area. Join me in voting yes.

• Jim Clark is a local attorney and a longtime Juneau resident. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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