Cedar Park building to become Juneau Jewish center

Posted: Thursday, April 08, 2004

The Juneau Jewish Community finally has its own place to worship after meeting in homes and other sites over the years.

Members hugged each other in joy Wednesday after learning they were the highest bidders to purchase Cedar Park Center from the city.

"We haven't had a place and people have been talking about it," said Norman Cohen, the group's board president. The group has 70 members.

Juneau Jewish Community bid $101,034 - about double the nearest bid - for the West Juneau property. The 30-year-old center was assessed at $458,300, but by law must be sold to a nonprofit group because it was built with restricted federal money.

The building also will serve as a permanent home for a Torah scroll that was rescued by a spiritual scribe from the Holocaust, member Keith Levy said. The scroll contains Jewish scripture handwritten by a special scribe, member Sheryl Weinberg said.

Cedar Park Center, at 211 Cordova Street, was the Children's Community Center for about 30 years until it disbanded in 2003, said city Lands Resources Manager Steve Gilbertson. The building has been vacant while the city looked for a new use, he said.

"We have no use for it ourselves," Gilbertson said. "We thought a nonprofit group could make good use of it."

Juneau sought bids in March to purchase the building that overlooks a wooded ravine in a residential area. The 2,900-square-foot, wood-framed structure sits on three-quarters of an acre. It was designed in 1974 by the Juneau architectural firm Linn Forrest and Associates to be a child-care center.

The largest area in the building is a 24-by-50-foot great room where Juneau Jewish Community will hold services, Cohen said. Two smaller rooms will be used interchangeably for meetings and religious classes for children, he said. This fall is the earliest they would begin using the building, he said.

The group does not already have a synagogue, Cohen said, because it lacks a history of generations that would foster and maintain such a facility.

Juneau Jewish Community now has 30 days to apply for a conditional use permit from the planning commission, Gilbertson said. If approved, it has 60 days to purchase the building from the city. If the planning commission denies a conditional use permit, the city would select the next highest bidder, he said.

That bidder was Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing Authority, which bid $51,000. Juneau Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and Southeast Alaska Friends of Montessori each bid $10,000.

The city was required to sell the property to a nonprofit organization that would use it for a community purpose because the building was constructed with federal Housing and Urban Development funds, Gilbertson said.

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