Juneau plans to move City Hall

March 14, 2019
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The Farmers & Merchants Union Bank on Jewel Street in Juneau will be sold to the city of Juneau for a new City Hall. The bank is relocating to a new building on Western Avenue.

JUNEAU — Juneau City Hall will be cramped no more.

The Juneau Common Council learned Tuesday that the Farmers & Merchants Union Bank accepted the city’s offer to buy the bank building at 405 Jewel St. across the street from the Juneau Pulbic Library. A new bank branch is under construction near Piggly Wiggly on Western Avenue and is due to open in a few months.

The city will buy the building for $175,000. The property is currently valued at just under $275,000, according to county records.

“That will be forthcoming as far as the agreements and the legal part of it, but right now we have an agreement with them to purchase that, so we’re also looking at what we need to do to make it a City Hall, what’s appropriate for us office-wise, space-wise, Common Council chambers, and such things,” said council member Cheryl Braun, chairwoman of the finance committee.

The city will fund the purchase through bond financing of $740,000, which also includes money for utility projects and $25,000 in upgrades to the bank building.

The current City Hall, 150 Miller St., is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and is in need of repairs that could take a lot of time and money, according to the members of the finance committee.

The bank building may be larger than the city currently needs, but could be useful as Juneau grows. The current city hall is cramped and the meeting room is tightly packed if the public attends. Everyone in attendance is packed together and there is not much room to go around for all the chairs and people and coats, the table and the camera that records the meetings.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Juneau City Clerk Valerie Knetzger said. “There’s room for opportunity and it will fill the needs that this current building lacks.”

City officials have toured the building and met with the architect of the bank, built in the early 2000s, to learn more about how the bank would serve the city and could be converted for its needs. Additions may include new offices and a bathroom that would be ADA-compliant, according to Braun.

There are unfinished areas in the Jewel Street building. According to city records, the building was built as a duplex and the bank was not using the full space. Some of the bank items like counters, vaults and drive-up equipment would remain with the building. There were other parties who were interested in buying the property.

Farmers and Merchants Bank, based in Columbus, did not wish to provide information about the offer. The new bank will be in the same area of town at the intersection of Highway 26 and Western Avenue.