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State expands list of possible office locations

Valley could become site of major new building

Posted: July 7, 2011 - 9:01pm

State officials planning for a new Juneau office building are expanding their list of possible sites to 20 or more, despite having earlier narrowed their list down to just a handful.

And while both the new and old site lists included both downtown and Valley locations, there are increasing indications that the state is seriously considering a Valley site.

The state’s architect, ECI/Hyer, Inc., is planning a public meeting in Juneau in a few weeks and a full site list will be made public before that meeting, said Tanci Mintz, state leasing and facilities manager.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, who lives in Douglas but represents downtown, said she’d hoped any new building would be close to the core capital complex, ranging from the State Museum to the Capitol and its neighboring buildings.

“Proximity is so important,” she said, and needs to be considered if staff in the new building is to efficiently interact with other state workers.

A more distant location is “not what the delegation thought was going to happen,” she said.

The state has released HCI/Hyer’s site evaluation criteria, in which various site factors are given point awards to help with the decision making process. Of the 280 points possible, ECI/Hyer decided that “proximity to Capital complex” was worth 10 points, or about 3.5 percent of the total.

The largest number of points available, 60, are for construction/development cost, with both operational cost and site procurement cost/feasibility at 40 points each.

Numerous other factors, such as impact on cultural resources and public transit access, also can get 10 points each.

Mintz said it was decided that proximity to other state offices was of lesser importance than what she termed “major operational impacts,” such as the cost factors that got higher point values.

Early estimates done last year suggested possible cost savings in locating the building in an empty section of a business park in the Valley, compared to a project located in the core area downtown.

In addition, the state has begun surveying those staff who will be located in the building to determine how far away they now live from work and gather details about their commutes.

“We going to take all of those into consideration,” she said.

A public workshop will be held in Juneau in a few weeks to give additional opportunity for feedback, she said.

In addition, she said, Heather Marlowe, the city’s lands and resources manager, also represents Juneau in the process.

Marlowe said Juneau doesn’t have an official position on where the new office building should be.

“We want what’s best for state government,” she said.

If the state determines a location outside downtown is best for its needs, the city will support that, she said.

The city is also monitoring the process to determine what impacts the project might have on traffic patterns, or other issues that might develop.

For example, a location in the Valley’s Vintage Park might require additional road improvements, but a movement of people away from the congested 10th Street and Douglas Bridge intersection might relieve pressure there, she said.

The new building is to be home to the Department of Labor, currently located in a leased building known as the “Plywood Palace,” as well as smaller numbers of Public Safety employees downtown and Fish and Game employees in Douglas, Mintz said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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