Five local organizations are vying to take over a former Juneau Youth Services property, and representatives from each of them had a chance to speak publicly Monday.
The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Lands and Resources Committee held a noon meeting Monday to allow representatives from the organizations to speak, and committee members posed questions as well. The committee will meet again Feb. 26 with the aim of narrowing the list down to three organizations to have the Assembly choose one.
The property in question is located at 9290 Hurlock Ave., near Pipeline Skate Park at the corner of Mendenhall Loop Road and Hurlock Avenue. JYS vacated the city-owned building (known as the Cornerstone Campus) at the end of 2017, and the city began taking applications for other community-minded organizations to take over the property.
The five remaining properties are: Alaska Legacy Partners, an assisted living facility for seniors; Aunt Margaret’s House, a halfway house and seasonal housing agency; Gehring Nursery School, for preschool childcare; Polaris House, a mental health care service; and Prama Home Inc., which combines preschool education, senior care and services for homeless youth. The Glory Hole Homeless Shelter also sent in an application to move its shelter to the location, but withdrew it after further consideration.
Juneau-born businessmen Garrett Schoenberger and Paul Simpson are heading up Alaska Legacy Partners, looking to add more senior housing in Juneau. The two of them have also purchased the former University of Alaska Southeast Bookstore, looking to lease it to local businesses.
Schoenberger said Monday that they’re aiming to have around 16 beds, either for assisted living care or memory care. They would have experienced senior care provider Hans Snyder serve as the executive director of the facility, Shoenberger said.
Housing for seniors has been identified as a need in Juneau. In 2013, the City and Borough of Juneau cited Alaska Department of Labor numbers that estimated that Juneau’s senior population will rise by 261 percent from 2010 to 2030.
Real Estate Broker Kelli Grummett, who authored the application from Aunt Margaret’s House, said stable housing for recent inmates is another major issue in Juneau. She cited a Department of Corrections study that said stable housing is the biggest hurdle for recently released inmates as they try to readjust to life on the outside.
“Stable housing isn’t being offered at all in Juneau,” Grummett said. “The closest thing is the Haven House, which is only offered to women, and their residents have to leave after two years. My residents can stay as long as they want, so it truly is stable housing.”
Gastineau Human Services runs the Glacier Manor Halfway House, which is temporary housing.
The third organization under consideration is the Gehring Nursery School. Israa Kako-Gehring, who currently runs a childcare center elsewhere, is looking to expand to the Cornerstone location. Though her original application said they would aim to accommodate up to 150 children at the Cornerstone location, Kako-Gehring said Monday that accommodating between 50 and 75 children would be much more practical.
Access to childcare has been a talked-about topic in Juneau, especially with two child care providers — TLC Daycare and Juneau Christian Center Daycare — planning on closing their doors later this year. Kako-Gehring told a story of a family that planned a pregnancy based on when their first child headed to kindergarten, just so their next child could take the open spot left by their first child.
“That tells you how desperate that family was,” Kako-Gehring said, “that they were willing to plan out their family based on daycare.”
Polaris House, a mental health care service, listed in its application that it would look to move its operation from its Willoughby Avenue location. Polaris House currently provides assistance to those with mental illnesses, including job training, help with finding housing and more.
If Polaris House were to move to the Cornerstone property, Executive Director Bruce Van Dusen said Monday, it would add to those services. With more room, the organization could provide psychiatric respite services — which could provide someone struggling with mental illness a place to stay for a few days — and a training center where local organizations could send employees who are looking to learn more about mental health treatment.
The fifth and final organization applying for the facility is Prama Home Inc., which would seek to provide childcare, senior care and homeless youth care. It does not currently have a location. President and CEO Charles Wilson is a former educator and principal and wrote in the application that he believes having both young and old sharing a facility would have a major positive effect on the youth there.
The meeting to narrow the list to three will take place at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 26, half an hour early for a Lands and Resources Committee meeting. Members of the public will be able to weigh in prior to the committee members making their selections.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.