Drier days on the way at the JACC

Roof, window renovation to begin when weather permits

Posted: Thursday, September 24, 2009

Renovations to the Juneau Arts & Culture Center may soon be under way: Funds approved this past spring became available earlier this month. The renovation will mostly focus on repairing the roof, according to Nancy DeCherney, executive director of the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council.

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

"The roof is old and it leaks," she said. "It is permeable in all senses of the word."

The flat roof on the former Armory building, located at 350 Whittier St., allows water to pool up on top, she said, so that when the downspouts get backed up in a heavy rain, the water has no place to go but down.

The problem has been somewhat alleviated with temporary fixes in the past, she said, but the roof has reached a point where a more lasting solution is necessary.

"There's only so may times you can patch the holes," she said.

Because the wet season is already here, the roof work may not begin until spring.

Kimberly A. Kiefer, acting city manager, said that the city applied for federal funds to partially pay for the project in April, but that the notice of award didn't come through until last week.

"This isn't the best time, as one would imagine, to replace a roof," she said.

In addition to the roof, the windows are going to be upgraded. The original 1959 models currently in place don't do much to protect those inside from the elements.

"We spend a lot of time heating the outdoors," DeCherney said.

DeCherney and others on the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council staff have done what they can to protect the interior of the building and its contents from water damage. A blue tarp hangs over the JAHC's piano, and plastic buckets are scattered around the main hall to collect drips.

In May, the Juneau Assembly Finance Committee approved $500,000 for the renovation, a total that covers the estimated cost of a new roof with insulation and replacement of the upper clerestory windows in the main hall. Part of the total, $131,400, will paid with federal stimulus funds intended for projects involving energy efficiency.

Kiefer said that stimulus-funded projects such as this must be completed within a year, and the assembly felt the JACC roof was something they could accomplish within that time frame. The amount was pre-determined based on Juneau's population.

The remaining amount, $368,600, will be paid for with income from marine passenger fees. Although the $5 head tax is intended for projects that involve cruise ship passengers or tourism issues, Mayor Bruce Botelho justified the use of those funds because the JACC is an emergency staging area for cruise ship passengers, similar to Centennial Hall. The JACC project was one of several that tapped those funds.

The 15,000 square-foot former armory, constructed in 1960, is owned by the city, but the Arts Council is responsible for the management of the building, including payment of utilities, maintenance and any upgrades.

A new performing arts center has been planned for many years, but that project is still at least 10-15 years away, DeCherney said.

The cost of a new center has been estimated at $32 million.

The JAHC has rented the space from the city since October 2007. They also manage the spaces for other groups to use. Currently there are two tenants on the second floor: Juneau Jazz & Classics and Studio A. (Studio A owner Albert McDonnell recently left town, but his business is set to continue with new owners Scott Burton and Steve Wilde.)

The JAHC also rents the building out to various groups throughout the week.

"A lot of people don't realize the building is available for rent," DeCherney said.

One of the reasons the Assembly agreed to fund the project, DeCherney said, was because Assembly members understand the facility is well-used by the community.

"I'm pleased to say we've been tracking the use of the building and there are between 2,000 and 3,000 people through the door every month. I think the community has shown that it needs the space," she said.

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