SLAM construction set to begin this summer

ECI/Hyer architect Brian Meissner updates the CBJ Assembly on the SLAM project. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO. Click to enlarge)

Construction of a new facility to house the state Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums in Juneau is on track to get underway in earnest this summer.

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the so-called SLAM project was held last October at the construction site behind the current State Museum.

Architect Brian Meissner with the Anchorage-based firm ECI/Hyer says the design team sees a 20-million dollar appropriation in Governor Parnell’s proposed capital budget as a green light to start actual construction this year.

“This is the current plan: Get in the ground this summer and be done by the end of ’14 – so moving in in 2015. It may adjust if the funding comes on a different plan. That’s yet to be seen, but we’re feeling very good about it,” says Meissner.

Total cost for the project is estimated at more than 120-million dollars, of which 32.5-million is already on hand.

PCL Construction Services has been chosen as general contractor. Meissner says the first order of business is to build a vault to house some of the museum pieces during construction.

“Basically what we’re doing is we’re building a temporary storage for the artifacts – not for people – then we’re going to build the rest,” Meissner says.

The State Museum will be closed in 2013 and 2014 while the SLAM facility is under construction. During that time, Museum Curator Bob Banghart says they hope to set up temporary exhibits in Centennial Hall for visitors in Juneau, and to expand services to other facilities around the state.

“We dedicate a good portion of staff time in support of other institutions around the state with expertise that’s not just servicing them with exhibitions. It’s everything to do with museology, library development, archival assistance, etc,” says Banghart. “So those are manpower issues. We can send people; we’ll still maintain the communications there. We won’t lose that.”

Banghart says he’s a little concerned about the museum losing cruise ship visitors during the closure. But he says tourism companies have told him they’re excited about the new facility.

“They’re very interested in ratcheting up marketing of our institution to their clients, which means I think we’ll see an increase,” Banghart says.

The 118-thousand square foot SLAM building will double the amount of space currently used to house the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums. The facility will also bring all three functions under the same roof, creating more efficiency and better access to the state’s historical and archival material.

Meissner and Banghart updated the CBJ Assembly on the project’s progress at last night’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

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