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Fate of Gastineau Apartments building still undecided

Posted: December 5, 2012 - 1:05am
An aerial shot shows fire damage to the roof of the Gastineau Apartments building on South Franklin Street.  Courtesy Photo from Capital City Fire/Rescue
Courtesy Photo from Capital City Fire/Rescue
An aerial shot shows fire damage to the roof of the Gastineau Apartments building on South Franklin Street.

The fate of a burned apartment building downtown is still undecided, according to a city building official.

The City and Borough of Juneau condemned the Gastineau Apartments the day after a fire engulfed its top floor, but the decision of whether to demolish the building or rebuild it is up to the building’s owner.

CBJ previously issued a standard Notice and Order requirement for burned structures to owner James Barrett, 38, letting him know he has five days to inform the city of his plans for the building.

That deadline is not as austere as it sounds, and the city granted Barrett an extension, according to City and Borough of Juneau Building Codes Official Charlie Ford.

Ford said 90 percent of the time, building owners request an extension due to investigation or insurance issues, and that the city always grants the extensions.

“The Notice and Order is mainly intended to keep communication lines open,” Ford wrote in an email. “Our goal is to get the demolition or the repairs progressing in a timely manner.”

Ford added that the building department tries to be as flexible as possible in these types of situations to avoid adding any additional stress.

“Our main concern is public safety,” Ford said, noting that in this case, “The building is secured, and the owner is working towards compliance with our department.”

Phone calls to Barrett in the past few days went unreturned, but Ford said Barrett initially asked for an extension because he could not make a decision without receiving information from the lead and asbestos testing agency, and reports for the insurance adjustors.

Barrett has since received the asbestos and lead reports, and is now waiting on a structural report from an engineering firm, according to Ford. He’s working on an abatement plan, or progress report, Ford said.

Ford added that he was not personally overly concerned with meeting the strict five-day deadline since it usually takes several weeks to obtain such reports.

All the occupants of the building were evacuated at the time of the Nov. 5 fire, and no life-threatening injuries or fatalities were reported. One pet — a cat named Boots — perished, and several people were treated for smoke inhalation.

The fire did, however, displace about 50 residents of the apartments since the building is now considered a ‘dangerous structure.’

The fire department said the fire was most likely caused by an unattended candle left in one of the apartments on the fourth floor.

The building is located on South Franklin Street in the heart of the downtown historic area and was built in 1917.

According to the City and Borough of Juneau’s Finance Department Assessor’s Database, it had a site value of $810,200. The building property value was listed as $1,000,700, and the total property value was listed as $1,810,900, according to the database.

The building also housed several businesses on its ground floor.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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