By Lex Treinen
Anchorage will not purchase a former Alaska Club gym to turn it into a homeless shelter, throwing a wrench in the Anchorage Assembly’s push to have smaller shelters dispersed around town.
A spokesperson confirmed via text message the administration of Dave Bronson won’t buy the Tudor Road building. The previous mayor entered into a contract to buy it for about $5 million, with a deadline of Friday: it would have sheltered up to 150 people.
Instead, the Bronson administration is pushing forward with its plan to build a larger structure that would initially shelter 400 people and could be expanded. The administration will ask for $15 million from the Assembly next week to build a large, tent-like building called a sprung structure.
Assemblymember Felix Rivera said he’s disappointed and frustrated with the decision not to purchase the former Alaska Club, which the owners had offered at a steep discount. He said having a smaller shelter in the middle of his Midtown district would have helped ease the homelessness problem there.
“All of the studies show, and even talking with our neighbors experiencing homelessness, they tell us, that if they were to choose a shelter to go to, they would choose one that is closer to where they live day to day,” he said.
Rivera said the decision not to purchase the Alaska Club also takes away any plan B for homelessness if the Assembly votes against the shelter proposal.
Alaska Club CEO Robert Brewster said in a phone call that while the city won’t meet tomorrow’s deadline, “there is opportunity to continue discussions” if the Alaska Club doesn’t find another buyer before then. He said the Bronson administration has not been in contact with the Alaska Club.
The Assembly will have to vote to approve the larger shelter.
At a Tuesday meeting of the Assembly’s Housing and Homelessness Committee, Bronson’s homelessness coordinator Dr. John Morris said that the building itself, a prefabricated tent-like building that would be made in Utah by Sprung Structures and shipped to Anchorage, would cost about $5 million. The construction would cost about $10 million.
That includes the cost to move cars from an impound lot on the site where the construction is proposed. The Anchorage Police Department estimated that moving the vehicles would cost about $4 million, according to figures cited by the Assembly members. Craig Campbell, chief of staff of Dave Bronson, told the committee that he thought it could be done at “a fraction” of that estimate.
Several Assembly members expressed doubt about the numbers presented by the administration.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if that price tag almost doubles,” said Rivera.