Starting Tuesday, the Bergmann Hotel will be for sale.
Breffni Place Properties, which owns the Bergmann and other properties in town, is selling the Bergmann — a historic Juneau building that was closed down in March of this year due to safety concerns — as well as two other nearby houses on Fourth Street.
Power of Attorney for the Barrett family Dave D’amato, along with Breffni Registered Agent Maureen Barrett-Smith, spoke to more than 15 gathered neighbors Sunday night to declare their intent to sell the properties.
D’amato spoke about past efforts to get help in running the Bergmann, saying that the low-income residents of that building were causing problems in the surrounding area. They worked with the Alaska Mental Health Trust at one point, D’amato said.
“This neighborhood is in crisis,” D’amato said in his pitch to the trust in an effort to get the organization to help out, “and this building is the epicenter of it.”
That partnership with the trust didn’t work out, D’amato said, and he and the property owners are now looking for a “civic-minded” organization to purchase the properties. He said there’s already been interest, and expects more to come when they’ve worked out a price for the properties and put them on the market.
D’amato, Barrett-Smith and a handful of others spent the weekend clearing out the buildings. D’amato said they’ve gathered around 6,000 pounds of “debris” and taken much of it to the dump. Most of that garbage is from the two properties on Fourth Street, he said. About 1,000 pounds of that total, he said, is from the Bergmann in the form of mattresses and other household items left behind.
“It looked like a hotel threw up in the yard, didn’t it?” D’amato said to the neighbors who noticed the trash on Sunday.
According to the city’s registry of historic buildings, Mary E. Bergmann built the building in 1913 originally as a boarding house for miners. It’s included in the National Register of Historic Places.
Kathleen Barrett, who is in poor health and 80 years old, owns Breffni Place Properties. As detailed at Sunday’s meeting, many of the recent problems with the downtown properties can be traced back to Kathleen’s son James. Kathleen, whose birth name is Camilla, wanted James to run the properties in Juneau.
Maureen Barrett-Smith, who is Kathleen’s daughter and James’ sister, spoke at length about James, saying that he was never capable of running properties. She also said that Breffni has stripped him of almost all of his ownership rights (he has no ownership in the Bergmann or either of the Fourth Street properties and he only half-owns his own house). As of this time, the company will not be selling the house Barrett currently lives in.
Even though James no longer owns those properties, Barrett-Smith said, James has been letting people into them and putting his mother’s reputation at stake with his delinquency.
“She had great dreams for him,” Barrett-Smith said of her mother. “Every parent does. They hope their child is going to grow up to be some wonderful, amazing thing, so it’s a really harsh reality.”
The residents in that area have also dealt with harsh conditions, and shared many of their experiences with D’amato and Barrett-Smith. They told stories of people coming and going at James Barrett’s current residence (at the corner of Fourth Street and Harris Street) at all hours of the day and night, trash everywhere, needles being found and having to call the police on a regular basis.
D’amato strongly encouraged people in the neighborhood to keep up the pressure on the Juneau Police Department to drive home the point that this neighborhood needs all the help it can get. Both D’amato and Barrett-Smith live out of town, but both are former Juneau residents and want to see the neighborhood return to the quaint place it used to be.
“We are sorry for what the community has to go through and what you have to endure,” Barrett-Smith said, “and that’s never been our intention.”
Gastineau Apartments litigation update
City and Borough of Juneau Municipal Attorney Amy Mead said Monday that Breffni Place has not informed the city of the Bergmann’s impending sale. This is significant because the city filed a lawsuit in March 2016 against Kathleen and James Barrett to recover the costs of tearing down the Gastineau Apartments.
The Gastineau Apartments, another downtown property owned by the Barretts, sat vacant for years after a 2012 fire. It continued to deteriorate, but the Barretts didn’t take responsibility for the property and the city stepped in, Mead said. The city completed the demolition of the apartments in January 2016 and filed its suit in March.
The negligence with the Gastineau Apartments, Mead said, created a “public nuisance,” and that the city acted to abate that nuisance. With the lawsuit, the city hopes to recoup the cost of the demolition from the Barretts, which amounts to more than $1.6 million, Mead said.
The city hopes to have the court “pierce the corporate veil,” which means that a court can hold individuals accountable even if they’re part of an LLC. Mead pointed out that Breffni Place Properties LLC sprung up after the city filed its litigation, and that the city would ask for the court to look into whether the transfer of those properties was legal.
Mead said it’s likely that the city will file a motion in its case related to this issue, but she’s not sure exactly what it will be at this point. She also said it won’t necessarily impede Breffni from selling the properties. The trial is scheduled to resume in February 2018, Mead said.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.