Affordable senior living facility set to open in September

Building relying partially on solar power

The “silver tsunami” has arrived in Juneau.


The term refers to the rising number of seniors around the country, and Juneau’s senior population is booming. In 2013, the City and Borough of Juneau cited Alaska Department of Labor numbers that estimated that Juneau’s senior population will rise by 261 percent from 2010 to 2030.

One of the many questions around this boom is that of where they can find housing. Part of the answer to that question is Trillium Landing, Juneau’s newest senior living center.

The apartment complex is for residents aged 55 and above and is scheduled to open in early September, providing 49 units of varying size and layout. It’s been in the works for around four years, with Seattle-based GMD Development designing and owning the facility and Dawson Construction building it.

Gaye Barrett, Vice President of Trillium Landing’s leasing company Quantum Management, said she’s been actively working with 30 applicants so far and there’s a great deal of anticipation surrounding the development. The development is in a spot within walking distance of Safeway Grocery Store, the Post Office, the Mendenhall Mall and the Alaska Club.

Barrett gave tours to a few potential residents this past Wednesday, to people around the age of 60 to one woman in her 90s. She took them through apartments that ranged from studios at $787 per month to two-bedroom units at $1,500 per month.

One of the biggest bits of positive feedback she heard was similar to what she hears in Seattle, where she spends most of her time. The windows in Trillium’s units are larger than usual, and the bigger units feature an extra window in the kitchen.

“Juneau, like Seattle, is pretty gray,” Barrett said. “A lot of people like to have extra windows.”

Installing wide windows is one way that GMD is planning to use light to enhance the quality of living in the complex, but another use of sunlight is turning heads.

Solar power … in Juneau?

The first aspect of the building that stands out is the roof.

Lined up atop the building are 221 solar panels, poised to provide energy to the common areas of the building. While each unit is metered on normal electricity, the hallways, common rooms, elevator and other communal spaces will all run on solar energy.

Dana Rommerdahl, Development Associate for Seattle-based GMD Development, said many of their facilities have solar panels and employ the same kind of setup.

“We usually try and keep our properties as green as possible,” Rommerdahl said. “It’s helpful from an operations standpoint but it’s also something that we like to do.”

Juneau, which experiences an average of 230 days of rainfall per year, has actually experienced a very recent rise in solar power installations. Alec Mesdag, the Director of Energy Service for Alaska Electric Light &Power, said he’s noticed three apartment complexes add solar panels this summer: The Terraces at Lawson Creek on Douglas, Sleep Spruce Apartments and now Trillium Landing.

Mesdag, who worked in solar energy for four years in Portland, Oregon, said Juneau’s not an ideal place for solar energy. While the kind of solar panel at Trillium (crystalline silicon panels) still retains energy on cloudy days, Mesdag said, the difference between direct and indirect sunlight is “massive.” He also said that the solar panels on Trillium’s roof are too close together and might actually shade each other during parts of the year, causing them to retain less sunlight.

Overall, Mesdag said he wouldn’t recommend solar power in Juneau, especially looking at a summer that’s seen rain on 26 days of June and 11 days so far in July, according to the National Weather Service.

“The economics of doing this in Juneau is really poor,” Mesdag said of solar power. “I mean, look at our summer, right?”

Rommerdahl has seen solar panels work in the cloudiness of Seattle and said she’s confident that it the approach will work in Juneau as well. The biggest goal with this facility, Rommerdahl pointed out, is helping Juneau deal with the quickly-approaching white-haired wave.

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at



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