Gastineau Apartments owner confronts Assembly

City to exercise eminent domain despite Barretts' demolition plans
Capital City Fire/Rescue firefighters spray water onto the Gastineau Apartments after a small fire broke out on March 21.

Gastineau Apartments owner James Barrett showed up at an Assembly meeting for the first time since the building burned down in 2012.


Just as the regular City and Borough of Juneau Assembly meeting was coming to a close Monday night, Barrett walked in during CBJ attorney Amy Mead’s most recent update on plans for the ruined structure.

Mead said the owner of the three-building complex has never attended a meeting before.

Although Barrett and his mother, Camilla, had said in recent months that they intended to demolish the structures themselves, Mead said James Barrett had not provided the Assembly with concrete plans, and Assembly members weren’t buying it.

“The Assembly directed that we proceed with eminent domain,” Mead said Tuesday.

The city has been formulating a plan for the Gastineau Apartments, now rotting and at times occupied by squatters, for the past two years. Mead said the Assembly’s preference has always been that the owners handle the matter privately.

Barrett told the Empire in January that his progress had been delayed multiple times due to lengthy consultations on cost estimates and depleted insurance money, which he used to pay debts.

The property has long been deemed a nuisance by the city, but now it has become a safety hazard.

In March, the building caught on fire again and Capital City Fire/Rescue Fire Marshal Dan Jager said the most recent incident was likely caused by vagrants living in the abandoned apartments.

When Barrett addressed Assembly members Monday, he maintained that he had always planned to reconstruct the complex and sell it to a private developer. He said most of the interested parties had been scared off by the city’s interest in acquiring the site and extensive media coverage.

“If it wasn’t so highly publicized, I’m sure it would have sold by now,” he said.

Assemblywoman Karen Crane cut into Barrett’s testimony to ask what he intended to do with the property and when it would happen.

“This has been going on for too long and we need action,” she said.

In February, representatives from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation inspected the premises to determine their interest in partnering with the city on an affordable housing project. AHFC concluded the Gastineau Apartments would need to be demolished.

The estimated cost to raze the complex was $1.2 million.

Mead said the city will now form a resolution to proceed with eminent domain, which would seize the property to be used for a public purpose. Assembly members now hope to install either a new city hall or an affordable housing complex, along with potential parking.

First, Jensen Yorba Lott will provide updated estimates on the demolition costs and provide those to Horan Consultants for a new appraisal on the market value of the property, according to Mead.

The appraisal completed in October 2014 valued the property at $50,000, while Barrett maintained that it was worth $1.8 million.

Mead said city officials are anxious to tear down the structure as soon as possible, after they “fleshed out” plans for potential uses of the downtown space.

“They’re going to need to know what the costs will be to the city,” she said.

A letter of intent for the property will be submitted in court, after which the Assembly will adopt a formal resolution.

• Contact reporter Stephanie Shor at 523-2279 or at


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