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The changing face of Juneau's investor class

Posted: July 30, 2012 - 12:05am

An entire generation of go-to investors for Juneau’s development projects may soon be stepping off the stage.

Development may get more difficult to fund with the absence of these historic investors and the absence of their concentrated and investable wealth, Kim Wold, president, chief appraiser and founder of Alaska Appraisal Associates said.

Wold established his firm in 1978. He specializes in commercial and industrial property appraisal as well as special purpose fishing lodges, sawmills and properties developed for tourism in Southeast Alaska. Wold has testified as an expert witness before the Supreme Court of Alaska regarding real estate and business valuation.

Wold recently commented (goo.gl/BQmHP) on the deal that fell through to revamp the Gross 20th Century Building to provide more than 20 units of housing in downtown Juneau. Downtown would have needed more than just this one residential development to hit, Wold said, a critical mass of people who live downtown full time — critical mass that can attract further retail and entertainment development.

“The more you have a middle class occupancy it breeds a comfort and security level that will encourage additional housing and development,” Wold said. “Overall market perception is critical to its revitalization.”

The Juneau Housing Trust and others worked at least eight years on the deal to revitalize the Gross 20th Century Building before it fell through. This scale of development may get even more difficult as Juneau’s historic investor class ages and divests of their considerable assets, Wold said in a recent telephone interview. As these established investors pull back and reduce risk, their successors, Juneau’s new class of investors, are failing to materialize, he said.

And it’s not a shortage of development opportunities in Southeast Alaska that holds back new investors, Wold said.

Today’s regulatory environment is such that banks, though they are in possession of large sums of lendable cash, are not in any hurry to lend it to young investors or developers who do not have cash reserves or the decades-long working relationship of Juneau’s established investors, Wold said.

“The existing investor base has ready access to credit, but young people coming up have a difficult time attracting finance,” Wold said. Sizable development project in Juneau require “at least $2 million in capital and maybe $20 million to $30 million,” Wold said. “[Young investors] really are shut out.”

Banks have lots of money to lend, Wold said. “I’m not slamming the banks by any means, but just because of the regulatory environment, it’s easier to loan to people with higher net worth.”

Juneau’s current base of investors is looking to sell off and hand down their investments over the next 15 to 20 years, Wold said. One can expect “a lot of turnover of significant property ownerships here in town,” Wold said.

While new ownership could shake up new development and ideas in town, Wold said. “I think that most of the ownership here in town right now is more interested in maintaining the status quo.”

For further reading on Juneau development issues, please see Juneau’s housing density plans may change city skyline (goo.gl/eW0Zy), Willoughby District Land Use draft plan (goo.gl/juUAR) or visit the Juneau Economic Development Council site (goo.gl/dpMdG).

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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