Juneau’s City Hall Situation

The City and Borough of Juneau is in need of a new City Hall to consolidate 160+ staff from separate leased office spaces into a single facility, provide more convenient access to the public, and invest in a long term, cost-efficient and purpose-built asset for the community and Juneau’s future. CBJ proposes to meet this need without raising resident taxes by constructing a new facility on existing city property at 450 Whittier Street. More details about the proposed project, location, costs, need and financial analysis of a new city hall, as well as the upcoming ballot initiative, are shared below. 

Latest News & Updates

Sept 14, 2023 – Community members share their support for a new city hall (See “Community Support” tab below)

Sept 13, 2023 – CBJ to hosts New City Hall Open House on September 13, 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Sept 8, 2023 – New! Animated explainer video from local artist & business owner, Pat Race: Watch here.

Aug 25, 2023 – Juneau Empire Article: “City Manager: A new city hall ‘just makes financial sense'” 

July 10, 2023 – Assembly approves Ordinance 2023-31 authorizing the issuance of general obligation bonds of $27,000,000 to finance construction and equipping of a new city hall for the City and Borough, and submitting a proposition to the voters at the October 3, 2023 election. (Meeting Recording and Materials)

Proposed Location

450 Whittier Street

Following a comprehensive professional analysis of existing commercial real estate and a community preference survey, the City and Borough of Juneau selected the construction of a new, purpose-built facility on the CBJ-owned property at 450 Whittier Street as the best option for a future City Hall.

This project would create a 46,200 square foot energy efficient building in the centrally located Aak’w Village District with convenient access from Egan Drive. The building would be designed for longevity, functionality and accessibility for public users and more than 160 CBJ employees. Preliminary designs are based on class B office space and modest square foot per employee standards. Building features would include a new Assembly Chambers, new  public meeting rooms as well as public restrooms and dedicated underground parking for the public.

Proposed New City Hall Site - 450 Whittier

Why New? Why Now? 

New Video: Juneau’s City Hall Situation – Explained in two minutes

Local filmmaker, illustrator, and small business owner, Pat Race, explains why now is the time for a practical, functional, and purpose-built City Hall for all of Juneau in this animated video.

Why New? 

New City Hall: The Fiscally Responsible Choice

CBJ is at a crossroads when it comes to the location of its center of government. For the reasons listed below and more, doing nothing is not an option but Juneau voters have a choice when it comes to how their money will be spent.  The choice is between a.) an inefficient and expensive combination of leased space and costly necessary renovations, and b.) funding a centralized and cost effective facility that is fully owned by Juneau’s residents.

An investment that pays for itself. An economic analysis model prepared in an independent report by Rain Coast Data shows that a new, purpose-built city hall as proposed at 450 Whittier Street would result in immediate operational cost savings as soon as the 25-year bond on the October ballot is paid off. By foregoing increasingly expensive rental payments, a new city hall would save Juneau over $190 million in capital and operational costs alone over the next 70 years. When combined with the sales and property tax benefits of the previously leased office space, these cumulative savings would pay for the entire cost – or reach the “break-even” point – of the $43.3 million project after approximately 32 years and result in over $220 million in net benefits over 70 years.

Costs referenced above include operations & maintenance (O&M), repairs and replacements (R&R), and either rent payments (Current City Hall) or debt service payments (New City Hall). This analysis factors in a nearly 50% increase in total O&M from the current to a new city hall and a 30% decrease in the O&M cost per square foot due to the larger, more efficient, consolidated building.  O&M and R&R for leased spaces are factored into rent costs.  Scenarios in the chart also note initial capital investments of $14.1 million in renovations and repairs to the Current City Hall or $16.3 million in construction for a New City Hall.

Why Now?

Rent – Nearly $1 million per year:

  • CBJ staff and services are currently spread across four leased and one owned building. The aging City Hall which requires significant structural, safety and systems repairs and no longer meets the current or future needs of CBJ.
  • Due to space limitations at the current 16,000 square foot City Hall, less than 40% of CBJ staff are located on site. The majority of CBJ offices are spread across four other rental spaces in Downtown Juneau, at the current cost of $820,000 per year in rent, with increases expected.
  • Two of CBJ’s four currently leased office spaces will no longer be viable in the near future. CBJ will need nearly 30,000 sq ft of office space for the 80+ displaced employees, regardless of whether it maintains the existing City Hall building. Any new leased office space will have a higher cost per sq foot and annual rate increases conservatively estimated at $2.60/sf and  3-4% (industry average), respectively.

Repairs – More than just a coat of paint:

  • Originally built as a fire house in 1951, and renovated in the 1970’s, the existing City Hall building at 155 South Seward requires over $14 million in known interior and exterior mechanical, electrical, and plumbing system repairs to bring the building up to code and in ADA compliance. From the roof to the restrooms, the age of the building means there is no such thing as a quick fix. Even with these significant repairs, the size and layout of the building would require CBJ to continue to rent additional off site office space for the majority of its employees.

Real Estate – Stronger market, lower inventory:

  • The market for commercial office space has tightened significantly in the last year. While the trend is a boon for the Juneau economy, a recent professional analysis found that there are no existing commercial properties that could accommodate CBJ staff and necessary services without displacing other tenants and requiring cost-prohibitive renovations.
  • By renting commercial office space, CBJ is occupying of nearly 34,000 square feet of desirable downtown real estate that could be repurposed for residential housing or commercial use in the private sector.

Return on Investment:

  • The condition of City Hall requires critical near-term and costly repairs (over $14M) in addition to the over $820,000 currently spent annually on rent for less than functional office space for over half of CBJ employees.
  • Given the potential instability of the rental market, and the fact that CBJ will be in operation forever, it makes good financial sense for CBJ to own its own purpose-built and modest facility that is energy efficient, properly sized, and customer service oriented, and will provide real cost savings in just 25 years.

This communication was paid for by the City and Borough of Juneau, 155 South Seward Street, Juneau, AK 99801

Community Support for a New City Hall

Members of Juneau’s community share their support a new city hall and their reasons for voting yes on ballot proposition 1:

“Let’s build that city hall!”

Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson, President, Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Tlingit & Haida), Said during his welcome remarks at the 2023 Southeast Conference on September 19, 2023. 

“The location, physical arrangement and scattered offices of the current City Hall are intimidating and burdensome for many to navigate. A new city hall that is ADA accessible, with all city services in one place would make is much easier for all Juneau-ites to participate in their local government.”

– Joan O’Keefe, SAIL, Inc.

“Throughout my career, I worked hard to find the most efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars.  Voting no on one won’t bring down costs or improve city services, but voting yes will give us the ability to construct a new, efficient and purpose-built facility that will bring city staff together to better serve Juneau for decades to come.” 

 – Mary Becker, Former Juneau Mayor, Assembly Member, School Board Member and Educator

“My first job out of college was as a city planner for the City of Wilmington, Delaware. The offices of that municipality were spread out over multiple buildings with many of us crammed into offices that were little better than closets.  After a few months we were all moved and consolidated into a new building that housed all of the administrative offices.  In bringing all of us under one roof there was a noticeable improvement in communication, efficiency and morale.  Not to mention increased accessibility by the public.  I can attest from direct, personal experience that a new city hall would be a huge asset for Juneau.”

– John Decherney

“Besides economics and functionality, there is another important reason we will vote yes and it relates to being good stewards of our capital city. We are proud to reside in Alaska’s capital and are grateful to the fine citizens who for many years have served on the Alaska Committee striving to keep it here. The current mish-mash of local government offices does not represent the high standard and image a capital city should depict. We can do better, not only for Juneau’s residents, but for all Alaskans who come here for a myriad of reasons and services. 

We invite you to join us by voting yes to support a new City Hall — one that will be properly sized, energy efficient, and a modest facility designed to best serve its customers, the citizens of Juneau and all of Alaska. We think it’s the responsible thing to do. 

– Paul & Sioux Douglas 

“As a business owner and active member of our community, I look for sound business decisions for Juneau. When it comes to our City Hall, it’s time for Juneau to stop spending millions on rent and stop-gap repairs on a failing building that doesn’t meet our needs.” 

– Kenny Solomon-Gross, Juneau business owner 

“Not only is a new city hall the better financial decision for our Juneau, but the ability to house all CBJ employees in one location is so important for collaboration and productivity. Keeping Juneau’s city hall and staff downtown, in the nucleus of Juneau commerce, is critical to our economy and helps our city thrive in all seasons.” 

– Midgi Moore, Owner of Juneau Food Tours

As a longtime member of the downtown business community, I look for projects that support a vibrant and sustainable Juneau.  Not only would the new proposed city hall save millions on rent and necessary repairs, but it would also provide a real, long-term and functional solution by bringing all of CBJ’s staff and services into one easily accessible City Hall that meets the needs of all of Juneau.

– Eric Forst, Partner, Red Dog Saloon

“I believe we need a new, well designed, energy efficient facility for most if not all of the administrative offices required to manage this city. A Municipal Building for the City of Juneau.

I believe that spending money on rehabilitating 155 South Seward, is a bad option and a poor use of public funds including my tax dollars. The same goes for maintaining leased office space in the Marine View Building. Aside from the much discussed maintenance required for both of these properties, these working environments have been subpar for years, possibly decades. Some overheated, others under heated, and all poorly ventilated. Possibly a contributing factor in our inability to fill posi