Inlet Inn, a magnet for police calls downtown, will close at end of month

rshinohara@adn.comJanuary 22, 2013 

— The Inlet Inn, a hotel at Sixth Avenue and H Street that's been a center of criminal activity, will shut down by Jan. 31, real estate developer Mark Pfeffer, one of the property owners, said Tuesday.

The inn provides living quarters for people who can't afford better, including drug dealers and users and alcoholics.

It will be boarded up until summer, when the owners will decide what to do with it, Pfeffer said. So far, they haven't figured out another use for it, he said. "The answer will probably be demolition."

The hotel is operated by a woman named Boo Lee, president of K and B Management. She was the former owner of the Inlet Inn, sold it to Augustine Energy Center LLC, and leased it back from the new owners, Pfeffer said.

Gerald Neeser, who heads a construction company, and NANA Development Corp., the Alaska Native regional corporation, are investors in the LLC with Pfeffer.

Police had been visiting the hotel once a day on average for assaults, drunk calls, drugs and stealing, among other problems, the Daily News reported last summer. The Fire Department had been visiting every four days on average.

"We just decided that the tenant operator there is never going to get her act together to be a responsible operator," Pfeffer said, explaining the decision to board the building up. "After a lot of trying to work with them, we decided it wasn't worth it. So we decided to terminate the lease."

Michael Corpuz, general manager of the Inlet Inn, said he had no comment except to say they would close Jan. 31. He called back later and said Lee had no comment either.

Mayor Dan Sullivan, speaking at his weekly press briefing Tuesday, was obviously pleased with the decision to close the hotel, which sits less than a block from City Hall and across the street from the downtown Transit Center. He said he congratulates the owners.

He said the city hadn't been pressuring them to close -- "not so much."

"I think pressure built on its own," the mayor said.

Pfeffer said Augustine Energy had been trying to get the hotel operator to pay attention to who the guests were, provide security, and make sure "there's no inappropriate activity occurring on the premises."

But it wasn't working, he said.

Augustine Energy bought the Inlet Inn property about four years ago with the intention of building a 21-story office building. The company had earlier purchased some adjoining property where the Alaska Experience Theatre and a small office building stood. They tore down those buildings.

"They were generating zero income and were in bad shape," Pfeffer said.

The 21-story office building has been shelved for now because of the economic downturn, he said.

It would be difficult to put the Inlet Inn building to another use, Pfeffer said.

"The history and character of it will go with it," he said. "You've really got to change the whole brand of the site. I think it would take some heavy-lifting."

The hotel has 79 rooms.

Corpuz would not say how many of them are filled.

A manager told the Daily News last summer that three-fourths of the hotel occupants were long-term, paying either weekly or monthly rates.

No one seems to know yet where Inlet Inn guests might end up.

"It didn't sound like a very desirable location," said Susan Bomalaski, executive director of Catholic Social Services. "But it does speak to the need developing in this community for affordable housing."

"It's very difficult if not impossible for low income people to find housing in this community," she said.

Having a boarded up building downtown won't be good, she said.

Instead, it could be converted to housing run by some agencies that have standards and monitor what goes on, she said, similar to Safe Harbor in Muldoon.

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at rshinohara@adn.com or 257-4340.

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