Tenants displaced after Juneau’s historic Bergmann Hotel condemned by city

Juneau police and community members look on as residents of the Bergmann Hotel hurriedly packed their belongings and left their rooms on Friday March 10, 2017 in Juneau, Alaska. The building has been condemned and residents were given 24-hours to leave. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska's Energy Desk)

Juneau police and community members look on as residents of the Bergmann Hotel hurriedly packed their belongings and left their rooms Friday in Juneau. The building has been condemned and residents were given 24-hours to leave. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

The historic Bergmann Hotel used as a tenement has been condemned by the City and Borough of Juneau over health and safety hazards.

Tenants were coming to terms Friday with the city’s condemnation order.

Code violations have been ongoing for years, but few tenants realized this was really the end.

I read that sign and walked right past it just like most every other tenants did, probably most of them didn’t even read it — a few of them can’t,” said Dave Lane, a carpenter who works as a handyman in exchange for lodging.

The Bergmann Hotel was built in 1913. It’s been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977.

The city says the owners had been on notice since October.

There’s significant health and safety issues at the Bergmann including an inoperable sprinkler system for fire, inconsistent heating, no hot water, sewage issues and improper roofing,” Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove said, “All of those issues pose significant risks to the people who are tenants there.”

About 50 people live in the building. Most pay about $600 a month. Tenants do much of the repair and upkeep themselves to keep the heat on and water flowing.

James Cole, 49, said he was caught off guard as he worked to clear out the basement.

“The whole point of it is I just gave them $600 yesterday for rent and the guy — he wouldn’t give me my money back,” Cole said. “I told him, ‘Dude. I just gave you $600 just yesterday.’ Now if I don’t get my $600 back — I’m going to take him to court. I want my money back if I can’t stay here.”

The city said it’s working with social service agencies to help displaced tenants with nowhere to go. As many as 30 spaces have been available at its downtown church.

“We’ll be open every night for them until Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. so they can sleep,” said Lt. Dana Walters of the Salvation Army. “We have cots, we have blankets. People are allowed to bring like one bag with them but then they have to take it. We unfortunately don’t have room for people to store things.”

The hotel property is controlled by Camilla Barrett who owns it through a limited liability corporation.

Juneau police officers confer as they take Chuck Cotten, property manager at the Bergmann Hotel, into custody. Cotten was responsible for removing residents from their rooms before Friday in Juneau. The building has been condemned. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

Barrett also is a defendant named in a lawsuit brought by the city in its attempt to recover the cost of demolishing the Gastineau Apartments, a fire-ravaged downtown property owned by a limited liability corporation controlled by the Barrett family.

Dave Lane said he’s worked for about three years to try to keep the building habitable.

But there’s been little investment from the Barretts, he said.

“Right now they don’t get a lot out of it so they don’t want to put a lot into it,” Lane said. “They’re not looking into the fact that, ‘Okay — if we put some money into this’ Because I mean, look at this place … it wouldn’t really take that much to put this into — have it a really nice building.”

Efforts to reach Camilla Barrett – whose legal name is listed as Kathleen Barrett — and her attorney that represented her in the city’s lawsuit over the Gastineau Apartments were unsuccessful.

Many of the residents suffer from mental illness and substance abuse.

“We do support safety and things like that. We don’t want to see our mental health consumers housed in a dilapidated situation,”said Gregory Fitch, executive director of the Mental Health Consumer Action Network in Juneau. “But considering the cold — I think we could’ve waited a week.”

The National Weather Service forecasts temperatures to dip into the 20s over the weekend.

Juneau struggles with homelessness and a lack of affordable housing. It remains unclear what options many of these tenants will have after the city boards up the Third Street property.

 

 

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