The University of Alaska Southeast closed its bookstore at Auke Bay in late 2014. The next time that building opens, it could contain a combination of a brewpub, a coffee shop, a marketplace or office space.
Two businessmen, both Juneau-Douglas High School graduates, worked out a deal with UAS in October to buy the building and lease it to local businesses and make it a hub for the growing Auke Bay community. Down the line, they would also like to add condos or housing of some sort on the lot behind the building.
The two men, Garrett Shoenberger and Paul Simpson, presented their vision at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday, stressing that they want to cater to local businesses.
“Our objective with this project is not to get Starbucks to go in here,” Shoenberger said. “It’s to get local businesses that can collaborate with one another and that can deliver amenities to a submarket that needs it.”
Shoenberger and Simpson are calling the project The Jetty, and are putting the building out for lease next week, and said they’ve already had interest from a couple local companies. While Shoenberger and Simpson envision something like an Alaskan Brewing Company restaurant or a local coffee shop with a drive-thru, they are open to ideas.
Alaskan Brewing Company Communications Manager Andy Kline said Thursday that they’ve looked at the property, but this isn’t good timing for them to expand there. Currently, the City and Borough of Juneau and the brewery are negotiating the sale of city property to the brewery. This sale (of lots directly next to the brewery) will allow the brewery to expand slightly. With focus being on that expansion, Kline said they aren’t looking to expand elsewhere at this time.
Shoenberger’s background is in commercial real estate, while Simpson has a background in venture capital investments. With extensive improvements to Glacier Highway in the area and to Statter Harbor, the two of them see the area as trending upward. They hope to capitalize on the amount of boat tours (both passengers and employees) that go out of Statter Harbor in the summer, and to serve year-round residents as well.
After Shoenberger and Simpson graduated from JDHS in 2000, they went off to college in Arizona and California, respectively.
Both of them felt the pull to return home, though. During his presentation Thursday, Shoenberger recalled his memories of digging through bins at Horton’s Hardware — which used to occupy The Jetty building. Juneau remained an important part of their lives even when they were away, both of them said, and they wanted to make it an even bigger part.
The two had remained friends after graduating from high school, and talked about collaborating on a project back in their hometown. Simpson said they didn’t find anything in Juneau that fit their skillsets, so they decided to form one — a private equity company called Alaska Legacy Partners LLC.
The Jetty is their first acquisition. The building is 10,000 square feet, with high ceilings and open floors. There’s a mezzanine on the second floor that could fit an office as well. UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield was in attendance Thursday, and congratulated the two men on having a vision for the area.
“The sale of the building from the university is part of our reducing our footprint and reducing our budget challenges,” Caulfield said to the two men, “so I’m glad it works for you and it’s helped us, I would say in that regard.”
Simpson said that ideally, they would like to get leases worked out in the next couple months and open up for business later this year. He said it’s more likely that it could be at the end of this year or early in 2019. Future residential development is still in the initial stages, Shoenberger said during his presentation, and they’re open to ideas from developers.
Shoenberger said the feedback from business owners and residents in the Auke Bay area has been positive so far.
“There’s something going on, and it’s pretty special,” Shoenberger said, “and I don’t think it’s been tapped yet.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.