City officials plan to file a complaint in court this week as a first step toward getting a lien on the newly cleared Gastineau Apartments property in downtown Juneau.
According to Municipal Attorney Amy Mead, a lien on the property would entitle the city to recover the cost of demolition from any sale of the property. The selling price could be significantly less than the demolition cost — the land was appraised for just over $810,000 a few years ago, but the demolition cost almost $1.4 million. To make up the difference, the city could choose to work with current or future owners on alternatives such as providing public parking spaces.
Public Works Director Rorie Watt says the demolition has gone smoothly.
“It was a difficult project in terms of trying to plan and do it in a way that was least impactful to downtown,” he said. “The buildings came down a lot easier than we thought they would, and the reason they did was that there was a lot less steel in the concrete. And so that was both good that they came down easier, but it was also scary because they came down faster.”
Besides the land previously occupied by the apartments, the demolition also included Gunakadeit Park. Watt says it’s possible the land could be turned back into a park, but the city is also open to including it in future development.
“Depending on who ends up with the Gastineau Apartments property – whether the current owner or somebody else – if there was a development proposal that made use of the park property and created the possibility for commercial and/or residential building, I think we would be really excited about that. It’s kind of a key piece of property and I think it needs to be put to its highest and best use.”
A fire rendered the century-old Gastineau Apartments uninhabitable in November 2012. Last year, the city determined it was unreasonable to repair and ordered their demolition. The owner failed to comply, so the city hired a contractor who demolished the building over the past few weeks.