Juneau has heard a lot recently about the campaign to build a New Juneau Arts &Culture Center (New JACC) — a campaign that at this point more than 1,200 individuals, organizations and businesses have signed on to support. Recent developments suggest that now is a good time for those of us deeply involved in this effort to bring the community up to speed on the project.
The need for the New JACC has been underscored by Juneau’s continual appearance in the national news as an artistically- and culturally-vibrant community. We are on the list of top 10 small cities in the U.S. for creative vibrancy, and sixth out of 933 cities (of all sizes) nationwide for creative vitality.
With the right facility, opportunity abounds. One sterling example is Sealaska Heritage Institute’s efforts to make Juneau the Pacific Northwest’s counterpart to the Santa Fe Indian Market, whose annual event draws tens of thousands to New Mexico. We must capitalize on such tremendous economic opportunities by prudently investing in the infrastructure to support the arts and culture economy.
Planning for the New JACC was the result of a multiyear, focused, robust effort that included multiple scoping sessions and community meetings which were designed to assess the need, the level of support and the specific physical elements to be incorporated into the New JACC. Using the results of those meetings, a preliminary design was developed last year.
One outgrowth of this planning was a decision to explore ways in which the New JACC and Centennial Hall could be integrated to work together most efficiently.
After months of planning, the city expects to transfer management of Centennial Hall to the arts council which currently manages the JACC. If remaining financial issues are successfully resolved, the council will assume management responsibility on July 1.
In the meantime, the New JACC leadership has proposed modifications to its preliminary design based on discussions with representatives of Travel Juneau.
These discussions were undertaken to learn how the New JACC could enhance Juneau’s ability to market conventions and meetings to interested groups statewide and nationally.
These consultations led the arts council to increase the size of the Community Hall in the New JACC by about one-third and to physically connect it to Centennial Hall. Both of these changes will substantially increase the attractiveness of Juneau to potential convention and conference hosts, while at the same time still providing all of the original designs carefully-conceived and narrowly-tailored infrastructure improvements for Juneau’s year-round residents and seasonal legislative and tourist visitors. But they also substantially increase the cost of the project.
The New JACC leadership has examined various means to have the city participate financially in the project, particularly in light of the proposed modifications that will not only enhance the city’s convention capabilities, but also its capacity to provide shelter in the case of a major disaster. After discussions with city staff, we will be proposing that the city sell voter-approved bonds to pay for the enlarged Community Hall and the enclosed and heated connection between the two buildings while the arts council will continue to raise private funds to pay for all the remainder of the project, continue to oversee design and construction, and then turn over the entire completed New JACC to the CBJ upon completion.
This approach would yield a situation virtually identical to the model that all parties have been following for the 11 years during which the current JACC has successfully operated: The CBJ owns the land on which the current JACC sits, and it owns the building, while the arts council runs the JACC. The same would be true for the New JACC (with the exception that the arts council would have raised the majority of funds for the new structure). This model will be just as effective for the New JACC.
The timing is right to leverage the unrealized potential of the visitor economy with Juneau’s proven artistic and cultural vibrancy. The benefits of a $20-plus million construction project will play a crucial role in helping the economy in the here and now, and in the long-term Juneau’ss economy will be strengthened by a continually growing arts sector and an increasingly attractive city for businesses and their employees to live and work.
• Bud Carpeneti is a member of the Partnership board, the entity which will build the New JACC. He serves as the co-chair of the board’s Capital Campaign Committee.