Commercial construction rolling

Posted: Friday, January 18, 2008

Last year's big trio of commercial projects - Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Fred Meyer's expansion - may be all finished, but smaller projects are keeping Juneau's construction market hopping.

"None of them are really huge," said Dale Pernula, director of the city's Department of Community Development. "But it still adds up and is pretty substantial."

Juneau Self-Storage is the first business to build on its land in the new six-acre Valley Professional Center at Jordan Creek, off Egan Drive across from the Nugget Mall. The rest of the business park will fill with retail, offices or restaurants.

The storage park's owner, Larry Spencer, said that in the last 90 days, the foundation has been poured and the roof has gone up. He estimates the project will cost $4 million, and plans to open the seven storage buildings by March 1.

"We're working right through the rain on this one," Spencer said.

Another business park, Entrance Pointe, is coming in off Old Dairy Road. The plan is for six office buildings, with one being built now. Carlton Smith, the real estate agent, said it's 90 percent leased now.

A roundup of some of the other projects in progress:

• Bethany Baptist Church off Riverside Drive is in the early stages of construction.

• The Juneau Hotel at 1200 W. Ninth St. is nearly finished after more than three years of construction. Owner Don Madsen said 53 of the 72 extended-stay rooms are complete and being rented now; the other 19 he hopes to have done by mid-June.

• Downtown, look for a new National Education Association-Alaska on 114 Second St.

• The Alaska Marine Highway is putting up a new support facility at the ferry terminal.

• CSK Auto has laid the foundation for a new Schuck's Auto Supply near Costco.

• New commercial space on 112 N. Franklin St., across from the Baranof Hotel, is being built by Jim Williams of North Pacific Erectors for owner Kurt Tripp. That will house a Mexican restaurant and some apartments.

Spencer, who is also a real estate agent, said he's received initial inquiries from smaller box stores that tend to follow the big ones in.

"Now add to that what has to be an economic retail miracle, which is downtown Juneau," he said. "Square footage is highly sought after. The property tax base is phenomenal."

Carlton Smith called the market "balanced," if not bullish. As the agent for Entrance Pointe, he's seen plenty of demand from national or regional tenants that have been waiting for more visibility from the road and high-quality design. "A flight to quality," he called it.

But not everyone is sanguine about the rate of construction.

"We're overbuilding," Williams said. He owns the building across from Costco that houses Play It Again Sports, and he said the space sat empty for two or three months after it was finished. "And that's a prime, prime, prime location."

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