'Plywood palace' gets aluminum makeover

Posted: Thursday, June 04, 2009

Juneau's "plywood palace" is getting an aluminum siding makeover.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Since early May, contractors have been stripping off its wood siding to be replaced with aluminum siding and installing a new vapor barrier, owner-landlord Patricia Blomfield said. The building, in which about 300 state Department of Labor employees work, is located along the waterfront downtown off Egan Drive.

Blomfield said the work being done this summer wraps up a three-phase project that began in 2007, when contractors replaced roof drains and replaced the exterior siding on the end of the building that faces Gastineau Channel to address some weather and drainage issues.

Deputy Commissioner of Administration Kevin Brooks said the work on that end of the building was "largely successful" in addressing maintenance problems.

The new look may turn the building's nickname, which Blomfield shared her thoughts on, into an anachronism.

"It's not particularly flattering, but you have to have a sense of humor," Blomfield said, noting Main Street's "Spam Can" and the unfortunate acronym for Willoughby Avenue's State Office Building. "I think it's slightly derogatory, but people have names for other things. ... It could even be affectionate."

The state's lease on the building expires in June 2012. State administration officials had been discussing a possible move into waterfront office space that the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority intends to build on the old subport property downtown, though legislation to authorize the new office building stalled in the Legislature this year, putting the authority's plans on hold.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, will be back up for discussion when the Legislature reconvenes next year.

Blomfield said the renovation project was in the works well before talk about potentially losing her tenant arose.

"This is not working with them in reaction to anything else going on, just what we told the state we'd do," she said.

• Contact reporter Jeremy Hsieh at 523-2258 or e-mail jeremy.hsieh@juneauempire.com.

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