Worthy of preservation

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2003

This is an answer to the plan by the Assembly to raze the old building at Second and Franklin Streets known locally as the JAMI building.

Information found so far says it was built in 1904 and at one time was the U.S. Customs House, then later the ODD Fellows lodge and still later, of course, the present building. It ranks as one of the oldest commercial buildings in downtown Juneau. At one time it was a very handsome building, and could be so again.

Does Juneau really need to replace its historic buildings? The reason given is that parking is needed for legislative aides. Why don't they walk to work? Many, if not most, live downtown.

More parking lots are never the answer. Just as with adding roads, the more you build the more cars will come. The result gaps in buildings are like missing teeth. Just to the north of the handsome old Baranof Hotel, one of the jewels of the downtown, will be not a block of nice old places but a gap. Turn on Second and there's already a gap; a parking lot. Behind the Baranof is - a parking lot. Go up the street to the old Faulkner, Banfield law offices and what do you see?

Does Juneau, already under heavy criticism from visitors as housing far too many schlock gift shops, want to add parking lots to its image? Who wants to wander around a downtown area and look at pavement?

It was said at the Assembly meeting that it would cost around $500,000 to tear the building down. Wouldn't it make far more sense to renovate it? I understand the interior is quite handsome, which would make sense for a building built as a lodge.

Time is short, as this was sprung on even Assembly members on the morning of the meeting, but there is about two weeks for action.

When I moved here I was quite impressed with the move to research and save downtown Juneau's historic buildings. Was that simply a fad?

Is there a disconnect between wanting tourists and supplying amenities that the year-round people can enjoy? There shouldn't be. If the core area of the town is pleasant and functional, it will be enjoyed by all who come here as well as those who live here.

This is probably a useless plea. Thinking of old buildings as worn-out comes naturally to those who neither know nor care about their history. But every building that goes takes one piece of real Juneau with it. Parking lots can never replace that. A real community honors those who established it. Juneau is young enough that it could be done, but I expect there's no interest in that.

Dee Longenbaugh


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