Downtown library's old elevators to be replaced

Replacement set to start June 15

If you want to take one of the two elevators up to the public library in downtown Juneau, which sits atop the Marine Parking Garage, you’d better be ready for a slow, creaky ride.


But by fall, the City and Borough of Juneau intends for those elevators to be gone — and replaced with newer, faster models.

The CBJ recently announced that its Engineering Department and Alaska Commercial Contractors will begin work June 15 to replace both elevators.

Both the small lobby on the ground level and the elevators themselves will be inaccessible to the public while work is going on, as concrete beneath the elevator shafts must be removed and repoured. That means patrons will have to take the stairs in order to get to and from the library.

“The major lowlight is that the elevators both have to be shut down,” said Steve Tada, an architectural associate with CBJ Engineering. “The pit has to be lowered to support the new elevators.”

While the elevators are out of service, the CBJ is advising patrons to park on Level D, the parking garage’s top floor. To abet that change, free one-hour parking spaces for library visitors are being moved up from Level A to Level D.

Spaces 227 through 253 will be free library parking, according to a diagram provided by Juneau Public Libraries Director Robert Barr.

Barr said the library will also seek to accommodate patrons who are unable or unwilling to use the stairs to access the facility. He said books and other materials people request to check out can be transferred to other libraries in the city for pickup, while the downtown library’s ground-level book drop will remain accessible while work is ongoing.

“That won’t change,” Barr said. “Library staff will just be toting those (books) up the stairs.”

Library books can be returned to any city library regardless of where they were checked out.

Tada said the old elevators that are being replaced have worn out after being in service since the building was completed in the mid-1980s.

“Everything wears out eventually,” said Tada. “Unfortunately, the elevator was just at its time.”

Barr agreed.

“Unfortunately, there’s no good time to do a project like this,” Barr said. “Our stance is, the sooner the better.”

According to Tada, the elevators’ hydraulic system has deteriorated and cannot be replaced. That means the elevators run slowly, exhibit jerky movement and sometimes make strange noises.

“They’re safe, but they’re very slow, and they make noises that are rather disconcerting when you’re in them,” said Barr.

The new elevators that will be installed this summer are Otis Gen2 models that Tada said are up to 75 percent more energy-efficient than the elevators that will be replaced.

“They will serve all floors,” Tada added. “Right now, as you know, there’s an express, a dedicated express. And when people get impatient, they press both (call) buttons. … I think that probably contributed to the downfall of wearing those elevators out.”

Tada continued, “These elevators are going to be quite speedy, and no matter which button is pushed, the elevator that is closest to that floor is programmed to go there immediately.”

The $444,160 contract for the elevator replacement project was awarded to Juneau-based Alaska Commercial Contractors last fall.

Tada said the project is expected to be “substantially complete,” meaning the elevators will be open to the public, as soon as early to mid-September.

The “absolute final completion date,” as Tada put it, is Oct. 1. That date is the one listed on the CBJ’s notice of construction, which is posted to the municipal government’s website.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at


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