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Preserving the Chief Church of the Diocese of Juneau

For the last six years parishioners and religious leaders from the Diocese of Juneau, the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul the Apostle Church have dedicated their time to the Cathedral Renovation Steering Group (CRSG), with the mission of preserving the over 100-year-old Chief Church of the Diocese, which holds the Bishop’s cathedra.

The CRSG was appointed by Bishop Edward J. Burns in 2011 to provide oversight and recommendations to the Bishop of the Diocese to ensure that the faithful parishioners of the Cathedral have a suitable place to worship for years to come.

In 2015, the professional services of MRV Architects (Juneau) were contracted to assist in drafting construction options. These options were presented to the Parish at a town hall meeting in May 2016. The range of options under consideration includes: minimal repairs to modest renovation to complete structural and roof replacement.

In the winter of 2016, the Diocese undertook an initiative to see if there was support from others in the Diocese for a renovation project. The Steier Group (Omaha) was selected to assist and canvassed the Juneau Diocese through interviews, on line surveys and mailings. One finding of the Steier Group revealed broad support from parishioners for the Cathedral renovation.

With the reassignment of Bishop Burns and the subsequent discussion with former Diocesan Administrator Fr Pat Travers, the CRSG resumed efforts towards the financial planning and design efforts to modestly repair and renovate the Cathedral under the option known as “B” from the May 2016 town hall meeting.

With option B, renovations would make the Cathedral ADA compliant by expanding the narthex so parishioners could enter the church from the sidewalk on Fifth Street, have elevator access to the worship space, and making the Mary Joyce room more accessible. There would also be improvements to ensure the Cathedral is structurally sound.

This conceptual level design places the cost estimate around $2.2M, with approximately $400K currently secured through parish donations. Although no action will be taken without the authority of Bishop Andrew E. Bellisario, the CRSG was directed to initiate focused fundraising activity necessary to renovate. Bishop Bellisario, after taking stock in the totality of the Diocesan needs, will provide guidance to the CRSG.

In addition to the financial and facility analysis, the CRSG has petitioned the City and Borough of Juneau for a zoning change of the square block which the Cathedral, St Ann’s and the Diocesan Building are sited. The CBJ Planning Commission approved the zone from “residential” to “mixed use”. The result, once approved by the CBJ Assembly, will remove roadblocks for the Cathedral repairs and enable construction as envisioned in the architect’s conceptual drawings. Drawings and rendering of the proposed project are included on the Parish website and are posted in the narthex of the church.

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