February 24, 2024
A developer wants to breathe new life into Juneau’s historic, long-vacant Bergmann Hotel

The former Bergmann Hotel in downtown Juneau on Jan. 11, 2024. (Clarise Larson/KTOO)

Finding housing in Juneau is hard. Finding housing downtown is nearly impossible. Still, a historic, multi-story building in the heart of downtown has sat empty for years.

The Bergmann Hotel is one of Alaska’s oldest residential buildings — the brainchild of a German immigrant who built it to house local miners. Today, the three-story, 46-room hotel’s windows are boarded up. Green moss covers its tan siding, and the inside is largely gutted.

Shannon Crossley, a historic preservationist and local architect, said when the Bergmann opened in 1913, it was considered one of Juneau’s finest hotels.

“It was the epitome of style and class, and it had all of these attributes that you wanted in a place to forget that you were in the middle of the wilderness,” she said.

This is a photo of the front entrance of the Bergmann Hotel taken in January, 1976. (Ed Shaeffer/ AK Division of Parks)

In 1977 the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Four decades later, the city condemned it for health and safety reasons after a series of police raids and the arrest of hotel’s former manager. That displaced about 50 tenants, many struggling with mental illness and substance abuse.

Now a developer says he wants to breathe new life into the old building. Dave D’Amato, who bought the Bergmann in 2019 with his brother, said he’s not worried about the building’s reputation.

“When it reopens as something new, it will stand on its own at that point, and hopefully, will be a feather in Juneau’s cap,” he said.

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D’Amato said he wants to restore the building and turn it into low and middle-income housing. The plan is to renovate it to hold 18 apartments on its top two floors — 16 one-bedroom units and two efficiency units — all while maintaining its historic qualities. He said the building’s ground level will be open for a restaurant to move in. 

“We will begin work this year. I would say that that building is going to be functioning in three years,” he said. 

The cost of the renovations is expected to be $2.8 million. Last August, D’Amato applied to the city’s affordable housing fund, asking for a $900,000 loan. He had applied the year before, too. 

With that funding, he said the project would have begun construction late last year. But the project wasn’t selected. 

A plywood board blocks the entrance to the former Bergmann Hotel in downtown Juneau on Jan. 11, 2024. (Clarise Larson/KTOO)

Assembly member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs is the chair of the city’s Lands, Housing and Economic Development committee. She said that each year, the fund gets far more requests than it can fund, meaning some projects don’t get selected right away.  

“I was really pleased to see it back on the list, because it tells me that they’re making progress. I would love to see something come to fruition,” she said. 

D’Amato says the company has about $500,000 available now to do some preliminary work in February. He says they plan to apply to the city’s fund again next year, and other grant applications are pending.

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The former Bergmann Hotel in downtown Juneau on Jan. 11, 2024. (Clarise Larson/KTOO)

Crossley, the architect, who is also on the city’s Historic Resources Advisory Committee, said preserving Juneau’s architectural history is important not only for Juneau’s history — but also for the state of Alaska.

“We have one of the most intact historic downtown cores in the state of Alaska,” she said. “ When I say that, I mean, a lot of other communities have had rogue waves take them out. Fires have been a big problem.”

The 2023 assessed value of the building and property is about $480,000. D’Amato declined to share how much he purchased it for in 2019.