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State narrows list of sites for new Juneau office building

Downtown, valley locations top list

Posted: March 31, 2011 - 8:52pm
The State Office Building parking garage is one of three sites under consideration for new office space.   Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
The State Office Building parking garage is one of three sites under consideration for new office space.

The state has narrowed the sites it is looking at for a new Juneau office building to three locations needing further review.

Heading the list is a site on which a parking garage now stands next to the existing State Office Building.

“It makes a lot of sense,” said Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, who has been following the process.

The list doesn’t include the subport property. It was on that property that the state’s efforts had focused for the last two years, but legislation to build new building there failed to make it through the last legislative session.

Currently topping the state’s site list is the parking garage property just north of the State Office Building. That location contains two options, one in which the existing parking garage is demolished and one in which it can be retained.

If the state can use the existing garage, the total price tag would be $10 million lower than if a new parking facility would have to be built, the review says.

Also on the list is the site of the current Department of Public Safety Building downtown, which would be combined with property on which the city’s Zach Gordon Youth Center and the Juneau Arts and Culture Center now sit. Those facilities would have to be relocated.

Finally, the site also includes a site in the Mendenhall Valley, in the Vintage Park subdivision near Safeway.

Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, said that site appears attractive.

“I believe the most cost efficient would be the site that’s identified in the valley,” she said.

Egan was less supportive.

“I’m not too enthused about a state office (building) in the valley,” he said.

Most other state offices are downtown, and it would seem more efficient for state employees to be near existing employees with whom they deal regularly, he said.

The state is now doing a detailed analysis of its four options on three parcels, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year, Muñoz said.

The current review comes after the state began with a list of 14 sites, narrowed it two nine options, and then the current 4. They range in expected cost from $74 million for the valley site to $90 million for the site above the parking garage.

State administrative staff made the recommendations to Becky Hultberg, Commissioner of the Department of Administration that the four options be part of a detailed analysis on which a final decision could be based.

Her department is responsible for providing office space for various state activities.

The waterfront subport parcel had been the focus of the state’s office acquisition efforts for the last two years.

The state has employees in various leased and substandard buildings in Juneau and Douglas that it wanted to combine into a new building with at least 141,000 square-feet of floor space it would own.

The private owners of the Department of Labor building, informally called the “Plywood Palace,” hired a lobbyist last year to fight the legislation that could cost them their tenant.

Muñoz said the subport property might be the most cost effective office location because of the work that’s already been done, but she agreed that administration officials were correct to leave it off the list.

“The same issues that came up last session would likely come up again,” she said.

The other site on the list includes the city’s JACC and youth center as well as the state’s Public Safety Building. Having to demolish those buildings, even if replacement facilities were available, could complicate and delay the process, Muñoz said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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