Falling debris from decrepit apartments closes Juneau park

The burnt-out Gastineau Apartments will finally be demolished by the end of November, according to Juneau’s city attorney. In the meantime, the city says the downtown buildings are a public safety concern. It’s temporarily closed the neighboring park due to falling debris.

Download Audio:

The city closed Pocket Park at the end of last week.

Tourists stand in front of the closed Gunakadeit Park, also known as Pocket Park, on Monday. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)
Tourists stand in front of the closed Gunakadeit Park, also known as Pocket Park, on Monday. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

“One of our workers was in there the other day and noticed some broken glass in the fountain area,” says Colby Shibler, park maintenance supervisor for Parks and Recreation, “and realized that it wasn’t a broken bottle and then looked up and noticed a bunch of the windows were broken out in the building there and realized that the glass was probably falling out of the window or had been broken out from the inside, it looked like, and was concerned about glass falling on people in the park.”

Dave Lane admits people have trespassed into the apartments in the past, but now he says the buildings are more secure. Lane does construction for the owners of Gastineau Apartments, James and Kathleen Barrett.

“We as of late, and that being the past 8 months, 9 months, have been patrolling more. Almost every evening, we come through and we make sure there’s no one in here at that time. We made sure everything is secure to the best of our abilities,” Lane says.

Gastineau Apartments still have unboarded, broken windows. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)
Gastineau Apartments still have unboarded, broken windows. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

City building official Charlie Ford says the Barretts are being negligent with security.

“I had been working with Mr. Barrett to try and keep the building secured and all of a sudden, I noticed a side door was open and there was a ladder leaning up against the Rawn Way side of the building that was obviously used for access to get into the upper floors,” Ford says.

Ford sent a letter to the Barretts Monday asking them to board up more windows and clean up the remaining glass shards. He says if they don’t care of it, the city will.

Gastineau Apartments have been uninhabitable since a November 2012 fire. The city declared the buildings a public nuisance soon after. The Barretts have repeatedly missed deadlines for repairs or demolition. Part of the building caught on fire again in March.

The Barretts had until June 19 to turn in paperwork and plans for demolishing the buildings. When they failed to do that, the city sent a letter a week later stating that it would demolish them on its own. At the end of June, the Assembly appropriated $1.8 million to do that.

James Barrett says that’s hindered his own plans to sell or demolish the buildings. He says he’s talked to more than 30 companies.

“It’s just put me at a standstill when we thought we were moving forward. I’m going to see where the other contractors who are bidding are going to end up. That’s about all I can do at this point,” Barrett says.

Barrett says he’s seriously considering suing the city.