Apartment renovation to bring housing relief

Posted: Sunday, December 17, 2000

After a year and a half off the market, the MacKinnon Apartments should be available to rent by mid-January.

The building, at a prime downtown location, is in the final stages of a renovation that will bring the 23 apartments up to code.

"We're in the cosmetic stage now,'' said Thom Cunningham, foreman for the remodel job.

But not just anyone can move into them. The apartments will be rented on an income-based percentage, rather than market value, said Nicole Hartman, apartment manager.

Half the apartments will go to people who make just 50 percent of Juneau's median family income. The other half will go to people who make less than 60 percent. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development lists Juneau's median income at $45,600 for one person and $52,200 for two.

Other subsidized apartment complexes are downtown, but there are few in the middle of town close to services, said Amy Hiley, Juneau area coordinator for Alaska Housing Finance Corp.'s public housing. Adding 23 apartments will have a significant impact on the availability of subsidized housing downtown, she said.

MacKinnon's more expensive one-bedroom apartments rented for around $650 a month and weren't subsidized before the renovation, said Scott Clark, co-manager and Hartman's husband.

Hartman said downtown apartments are running around $675 for an efficiency and $800 for a one-bedroom.

The apartments are becoming subsidized housing because financing for the $3 million renovation project came though federal low-income housing tax credits and money for preserving buildings listed on the National Historic Register, said Tim Hulse, owner of Southeast Remodel, the company doing the renovation.

The renovation was badly needed. The building originally opened in 1925 and was the first apartment complex of its kind in town, Hartman said. Before the renovation started, residents reported poor plumbing, little hot water, slanting floors and a general deterioration of the building. The electrical system was said to be a fire hazard by the building owner, Stephen Morrison.

The building has retained some of its rustic feel. The wood railings and decorative cornices were kept, as were little touches like cubby holes in the hallways, which foreman Thom Cunningham said he thought were put there as a place to deliver groceries. While the common areas were kept as original as possible, one sacrifice was the walls. There was too much damage from replacing wiring and plumbing to save the original plaster work, he said.

In some of the apartments, floors still have a slight up or down slant to them but they're closer to level than they were before the renovation, Cunningham said. The foundation work could only do so much to correct the problem, he said.

In addition to new plumbing, wiring and paint, the apartments have new refrigerators, stoves, light fixtures, linoleum, carpeting and other improvements. They were basically gutted and rebuilt, retaining the original flooring and layout.

Six of the 23 apartments are one-bedroom units and the balance are efficiency apartments, Hulse said.

Tenants were ousted at the end of March 1999 with the renovation expected to take six months. Cunningham said he hopes the project will finally be finished by the end of this month.

Moving-in day is scheduled for Jan. 15, Hartman said. People first need to go through the application and qualification process.

"I'm starting to get phone calls from all these people who want to be on the list," Hartman said.

And she said she hasn't even started to advertise.

Mike Hinman can be reached at mhinman@juneauempire.com.

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