Veterans affairs officials with the State of Alaska are expected at the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Soboleff-McRae Veterans’ Village starting 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27 at Second Avenue and Dalton Street.
Family members of Walter Soboleff and Howard A. McRae Jr. will be among attendees. Soboleff was a Tlingit scholar and religious leader who former state Rep. Bill Thomas said inspired the building as a home for military veterans from Southeast Alaska. McRae was a decorated Army command sergeant major from Haines, who also served in the Green Berets during his 23-year military career.
Major Gen. Thomas Katkus, commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, is expected to attend the event, as well as Verdie Bowen, director of veteran affairs for the state, and others.
The event will include a blessing of the property and drum ceremony followed by a ceremonial groundbreaking with speeches and a by-invitation dinner to follow at the American Legion Hall.
Construction of the two-story, 20,000-square-foot building is set to begin in mid-May. Residents are expected to move into some of the 11 upstairs apartment units next May. Occupation of commercial space on the ground floor will probably come later, said Jim Studley of Haines Assisted Living, who is overseeing the project. He estimates it may take two years to complete.
Veterans will have a preference for rooms, meaning they’ll be offered first occupancy and go to the top of waiting lines to stay at the facility. There will also be a sliding scale on rent for veterans needing financial assistance, Studley said.
Former Rep. Thomas, who will serve as master of ceremonies at the groundbreaking, secured a $6 million state appropriation to build the structure. Work will be done by Dawson Construction, the same firm that built the Haines Assisted Living center.