MILL RATE SEES REDUCTION BY THE ASSEMBLY. The Juneau assembly made the decision recently to reduce the mill rate.  Following a rain of public criticism of the CBJ’s decision to raise commercial assessments recently, the Assembly decided to reduce the mill rate from 10.66 mills to 10.65 mills.  “It’s not going to impact our tax bill much, in the scheme of things, but it looks to me just to be a headliner,” said the owner of numerous commercial tracts here in Juneau.  In addition to criticism about bad timing for property assessment increases to take place during the Pandemic, some have called the CBJ’s action to be totally “arbitrary, and without solid data to back up that decision.”  It has always been challenging to track and update local assessments simply because there is a decided lack of data to justify movement in values, said one local Broker.  In addition, with so many non-profit and tribal/native organizations acquiring property, the question of arms-length transactions is a concern as well.

AS THE PANDEMIC FADES, OFFICE VACANCY IS HIGH IN DOWNTOWN SPACES.  There is significant office vacancy downtown that could continue, even as the Pandemic fades.  Several buildings downtown remain essentially “half empty” even though the pressures of the Pandemic appear to be lifting, and putting people back into their offices.  This situation is led by two factors.  In the downtown core there are three large historic buildings that lie essentially vacant with no prospects for buyers or tenants.   These properties vary in size from 10,000 to 15,000 square feet.  In the Willoughby district, there are buildings that have vacancy rates of up to 40% which reflect re-negotiation of lease agreements with the state of Alaska, and the overall weakness in the re-leasing strategies of those buildings.

BANKS CONTINUE TO SELL OFF BRICK AND MORTAR LOCATIONS.  Across the country, lenders of all types are making moves to reduce their real estate holdings by selling branch locations and closing large office complexes.  This comes as digital banking continues to grow, and consumer lending on the internet reduces the need for in-person banking.  In Juneau, Wells Fargo closed its Lemon Creek branch, selling it to longtime beverage distributor Odom Corporation of Seattle.  Other assets of Wells Fargo statewide are being resold as well.

SOUTHEAST COMMUNITIES GET MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR GRANTS FROM NORWEGIAN CRUISELINE. Southeast communities that are ports of call for Norwegian Cruiseline have been offered essentially discretionary grants from the international company.  Skagway, Juneau, Hoonah and Ketchikan were offered the $2 Million dollar grants, with only Juneau deciding not to accept the money.  In a dissenting vote, Assembly member Loren Jones rejected the idea of the NCL grant, citing concerns that by accepting the funds, the CBJ might be in a compromised position in the future as the carrier might ask for exceptions to permitting or zoning rules as it considers new developments.

AIRPORT SUBDIVISON LOTS CONTINUE TO SELL BRISKLY. Following just four months of marketing, the Bicknell subdivision at the airport has marked its fourth sale in as many months, in spite of the Pandemic, Bicknell reports.  This is good news when you consider that no structures exist on site at present.  “When you start seeing buildings going up—that’s when we will expect the greatest demand for these tracts,” he said.  The subdivision, which is zoned Industrial saw final approval by the City following nearly a decade of permitting and design.  It is marketed by The Carlton Smith Company, LLC