Muñoz bill supports office building on Juneau waterfront

$50 million project would provide space for state workers, others

Posted: Monday, March 02, 2009

Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, introduced legislation Friday supporting a plan to build a $50 million office building on the Juneau waterfront.

The building would be built by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority as an investment, and leased to the state and other tenants.

Trust CEO Jeff Jessee said the deal would benefit both the trust and the state.

"The state gets much-needed office space, and the lease payments will be reinvested into trust beneficiary services," he said.

The trust was created at statehood to benefit the mentally ill, chronic alcoholics and the developmentally disabled, among others.

Munoz said her bill, House Bill 161, would give the trust permission to move forward with a project that would benefit the city, the trust and state workers.

"It has been at least 25 years since a new state facility has been constructed in Juneau," she said.

The building was estimated to cost up to $50 million, according to Munoz and trust officials presenting the proposal to Juneau officials. It would be four stories tall, and have 147,000 square feet. The building will be located at the intersection of Egan Drive and Whittier Street on a lot now used for parking.

The bill provides a name for the building as well, the "Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority Subport Office Building." The four-story structure will be comparable in height to the downtown Sealaska building.

A written agreement outlining the state's commitment to lease the space beginning in May 2012 from the trust is in its "final stages," trust Executive Director Harry Noah told the Juneau Assembly Feb. 9.

Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, said he had not yet seen the bill but had been briefed on the building plans by trust representatives and supported moving state workers from the troubled Department of Labor building, plagued by leaks and mold problems.

"That's not a healthy building for our employees to be in," he said.

Other departments announced as tenants for the building at the departments of Public Safety, Corrections and Fish and Game.

Munoz' bill would authorize the use of $25 million in trust money for the building, as well as issuance of a type of bond known as "certificates of participation." to fund the rest. The borrowed money would be repaid with lease revenues.

It would also authorize the Department of Administration to lease space in the building. The state is expecting to lease 90 to 95 percent of the office spaces, according to Wayne Jensen, the project's principal with the Juneau architecture and planning firm Jensen Yorba Lot.

Munoz' bill, cosponsored by Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, was introduced Friday and referred to the Community and Regional Affairs and Finance Committees. Munoz is co-chair of the Community and Regional Affairs Committee and Thomas is a member of the Finance Committee. No hearing has yet been scheduled.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com



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