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Soboleff Center construction coming along

Construction of cultural center's infrastructure nearly complete

Posted: January 16, 2014 - 1:12am
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A welder works on The Walter Soboleff Center on Monday. The facility, which will serve as an Alaska Native cultural and heritage center, is expected to be finished by the end of the year at a cost of $20 million.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
A welder works on The Walter Soboleff Center on Monday. The facility, which will serve as an Alaska Native cultural and heritage center, is expected to be finished by the end of the year at a cost of $20 million.

First came the excavation, then the groundwork. Now, the infrastructure is nearly complete.

Construction crews are almost done building the steel framework that will support the Walter Soboleff Cultural Center, Sealaska Heritage Instutite’s new cultural center being built on the corner of Seward and Front Streets in downtown Juneau.

The towering three-story “steel skeleton”, as the project manager put it, rose quickly.

“I have friends that said, ‘I hadn’t been downtown in two weeks and now there’s a building there’,” Lee Kadinger, Sealaska’s chief operating officer and the project manager, said as he chuckled during in an interview Wednesday.

It finally fills in the gravelly void that came to be known locally as “The Pit” after a fire destroyed its former occupant — the Skinner Building — nearly a decade ago.

Pedestrians and rubbernecking motorists traveling past now see $1 million worth of steel on display, purchased from the Hawaii-based Swanson Steel Co Inc., Kadinger said. The steel work will be complete by month’s end, he said.

“It’s happening quick now,” the official said. “It’s moving from a hole in the ground to an actual structure.”

Construction on the $20 million facility is slated to be completed by next January, with MRV Architects and Dawson Construction and subcontractor Glacier State Contractors at the helm since the site’s groundbreaking in August.

Sealaska Heritage Institute has raised $18 million so far and is working on obtaining the remaining $2 million, Kadinger said. The organization hopes to do that in part with an art auction they are hosting at Centennial Hall on Saturday, Feb. 1. (For more on that story, see the Arts section of today’s newspaper.) They are also pursuing additional prospects for fundraising, Kadinger said, although he declined to be more specific.

In the meantime, crews will next work on completing the building’s roof, and then on installing 40-foot tall vertical cedar panels that will alternate and complement large window panels that will stretch all the way to the top of the building.

Kadinger noted the panels are prefabricated to include a “sandwich” of dry wall, foam, fireproof plywood and more plywood.They will likely be installed by March or April.

“It’ll go pretty quick because they’re all prefabbed,” he said. “They’ll bring them on with the crane, and voilà! It will all be filled in.”

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

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