Renovation costs rocket on Juneau building given to Legislature to house legislators and staff

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There’s no such thing as free. This week, the Legislative Council approved $6.6 million in renovations to an old Juneau building it owns. When the renovations are complete, many legislators and staff members won’t have to go to the private housing market for their housing, and so that Juneau, as a community, can avoid addressing its bleak housing situation.

The $6.6 million approved by the committee that handles legislative business when the Legislature is not in session is a 20% increase over the $5.5 million estimated just six months ago to renovate the Assembly Building, once known as the Assembly Apartments.

Soon, many legislators will simply rent from the Legislature, which owns the prime real estate just steps from the Capitol. But first, the building must be converted into 33 apartments.

It is hard to get housing in Juneau at any time of year, but especially during late spring to fall, when the tourism season is in full swing. With housing to be provided by the State of Alaska, the Legislature can soon more easily meet beyond the 90-day statutory limit for sessions, or the 120-day constitutional limit. Legislators won’t have to free up their apartments for incoming tourism workers.

In fact, by owning its own housing, the Legislature can have all the special sessions it wants, and collect all the per diem that goes with it. Legislators who don’t live in Juneau make $307 per diem.

The Assembly Building is three stories and has a full basement for covered parking. It is an Art Deco-style building, one of very few in Alaska that give a nod to that classic architectural era, and it’s considered an historic structure by the City of Juneau. Long ago, it was filled with private apartments.

In recent years, it has been used for lobbyist offices, and as of 2021, the Alaska Legislature, as the new landlord, started renting to lobbyists and unions that keep their offices close to the Capitol. In fact, congressional candidate Mary Peltola had her campaign office in that legislative building.

Current revenue from the building is $222,987 per year, and annual operating expenses are $220,000.

It was valued at $1.6 million when the Juneau Community Foundation bought it and deeded it to the Legislature in 2021, as a gesture meant to preserve Juneau as the state capital. With another $6.6 million, it will return to the apartments it once housed for Juneauites.

34 COMMENTS

  1. Cheaper buildings in Anchorage Wasilla area. Look at the waste with a cost plus government with your money to burn. They don’t care how or how much they spend as long as it’s all they can get their greasy fingered on it.

  2. Eventually, the State, federal and local governments will own all the property in Juneau. It will just take some time. In the meantime, specially selected non-profits can acquire more property. What could possibly go wrong?

  3. Just move to Anchorage already. We’ve got enough drug addled vagabonds as it is.

    I don’t know Id call our housing situation bleak. But it can be challenging. No small part are the people who hold their properties off the market to gouge the legislature.

  4. How ‘bout subscribing to the concept of … “Doing More with Less?” Sounds like constituents deserve better than the status quo and we have the the technology to become more efficient and affective. If and only if there’s foresight and willpower.

  5. It’s an old Building, constructed in the 1930’s . It is structurally sound since it is a concrete building. The problem is it’s location, it is Kitty Corner to the Capitol. In times past it was a cozy Apartment Building, inhabited by folks like my old High School ChoirTeacher, Doris Jean Cranfill. Ms Cranfill a Spinster used to have me come to her apartment to help move furniture and other chores.

    The sad fact is… Juneau will do anything to retain the Capitol, including evicting their own into sacrificial fires all to appease the God of Government. Keeping that Star on the map denoting the Capitol has cost Juneau dearly. The old Assembly Apartments story is just one more grim tale of woe. Still, it beats having the Capitol in Bolschevik Anchorage.
    Move the damn thing to Gulkana, where Bob Atwood wanted it to be waaay back in the day!

  6. These guys! Hahaha. They go into great lengths and expensive just to keep power consolidated in
    a small town of 33,000 and declining.

  7. Why not just lease a smaller cruise ship during the regular session and lease suites back to the legislators and staff members? It could also rent suites to the school board members when they travel to Juneau to lobby for more and more money. A win-win.

  8. Better to spend the money renovating one of the ferries and carrying the entire legislature out into the Gulf for the duration of their sessions.

  9. Grammar nitpick here, Suzanne: it is properly “a historic”, not “an historic”.
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    The word “historic” begins with a consonantal phoneme, so the rule is to use “a” before all such words; “an” is used only before words beginning with a vowel.

  10. One would assume that the bidding on this project was limited to well established Alaskan contractors, so at least the money will stay in the state, right? Anyone?

    • Trig, like the Capitol Renovation project? A 40 plus million dollar deal wherein the Legislative Council selected Dawson Construction of Bellingham Washington?
      ( hint it wasn’t a low bid award)

      But that was when Republicans ran the show…

  11. A work in progress…
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    Just a little more money, they can get the guard towers up, gift-wrap the lot in concertina…
    .
    Seems like a good investment, no?

  12. I agree!
    Let’s leave the capital in Juneau, and move the legislative business to Willow. Our representatives will have less travel by air, less cost to move them every session, and the biggest reason, we the people can attend the meetings.

  13. When Anchorage schools close…there will be a place that can have a cafeteria, gym, parking conference room (former theater) bathrooms and classroom for housing, and the front office for tec. WiFi already set up break room already set up rent could go to the school district lowering property taxes in Anchorage. Security for lockdown and accessible to a great larger population.

    What do you think?

    • Dianne, stop and consider your thoughts, if just for a moment. By every measure Anchorage has been totally invaded by a Bolshevik group. Look no further than the Anchorage Assembly! The seat of Alaska’s government cannot be anywhere near these criminals.
      I also detest the idea of moving the Capitol to the Mat- Su. I moved back to the Mat-Su about 10 years ago and do not want the disease of Government to pollute this place. Please consider Tok or Gulkana if you must move the damn thing, just keep it far away from me.

  14. How can a legislative body be “Landlords” of a building? Wouldn’t that mean “we the people” own that building? If that is the case, I say sell it and move them to Willow!

  15. Might be fun to see what happens if, during renovation, an enterprising information broker installs bugs everywhere in the building.
    .
    That much power, money, greed, amorality, and hormones concentrated in one place could be an enormous money-making opportunity.

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