Legislative Council approves plan to spend up to $5.5M to convert Juneau building into apartments for lawmakers

looking up at the Assembly Building facade
The Juneau Community Foundation donated the Assembly Building, pictured here on Dec. 17, 2021, to the Legislature in August 2021. The three-story building is kitty-corner to the Alaska Capitol. (Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

A bicameral council of Alaska legislators approved a plan on Wednesday to convert a Juneau office building into housing for lawmakers during sessions. 

The Legislative Council voted 9-5 to approve the plan to spend up to $5.5 million to turn the Assembly Building into 33 apartments. The building was donated to the Legislature last year. 

Juneau Democratic Rep. Sara Hannan, the council chair, said the city government supported the plan.

She described why: “To make sure that we have adequate housing for legislators, especially in times when there might not be housing available.”  

But opponents said the council didn’t have enough information to make the decision. The council hasn’t surveyed legislators about their interest in renting the building, which could also be used to house legislative aides or other state employees for the session. 

Dillingham independent Rep. Bryce Edgmon voted against the plan. He said he wanted more time to consider the proposal.

“I kind of wonder … that it just seems like there’s been some steps that have been skipped here,” he said.

The building would have 15 one-bedroom apartments and 18 efficiencies. 

Edgmon estimated that a third to a half of the Legislature flies out of Juneau on weekends. And he said having lawmakers stay in small apartments could encourage more of them to spend time away during sessions. 

The 33 apartments would be enough for most of the 57 legislators who live outside of Juneau. 

The council hasn’t decided what the rent for the apartments will be, but the legislative staff said it could be based on the market rate. 

The Assembly Building is diagonally across the street from the Capitol. It was built in 1932 as an apartment building but has included offices since at least the 1980s. It has a 17-space parking garage on its ground floor.

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Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.