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City moves step closer to acquiring Midtown property for transit center

Nathaniel Herz
The city would like to acquire the National Archives property in Midtown to construct a new transit center. Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013. Bill Roth

An effort by the Sullivan administration to acquire a key 9-acre Midtown property for the city has taken a step forward.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Don Young directing the federal government to sell the parcel to the city passed the U.S. House transportation committee last week.

The measure now may be taken up by the House as a whole. A similar bill would also need to pass the U.S. Senate before the federal government takes action, which may not happen until after the House considers its measure, according to Matt Shuckerow, a spokesman for Young.

It's not clear when Young's bill could come to the floor, Shuckerow said. 

"We're going to look and see if there is an ability to move this bill along," Shuckerow said Wednesday. 

The Sullivan administration wants to put a new transit center on the Midtown property, which it says could be a good spot for the city bus system's hub. It's also interested in putting housing and commercial space at the site.

"We appreciate Congressman Don Young's hard work and support of the Municipality of Anchorage in our efforts," Sullivan said in a written statement.

The property has received renewed attention this month, after the National Archives and Records Administration, which had at one point had planned a new building for the Midtown site, announced that it was closing its existing Anchorage facility.

Young and Alaska's U.S. senators have asked NARA whether the money from a sale of the Midtown property could be used to bolster the agency's budget. The funding could then either be used to stave off the closure of NARA's existing Anchorage facility, or to help digitize the documents held there, the senators have suggested.

Murkowski is also asking NARA whether the documents currently housed by the Anchorage facility could be left in the state, with an Alaskan agency.

"We're talking with them," said Matthew Felling, a spokesman for Murkowski, referring to NARA. "It's still in the negotiation phase."

A spokeswoman for Sen. Mark Begich did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for NARA said in an email that "we are not able to comment on pending legislation."

Meanwhile, the Alaska Historical Society issued a statement this week denouncing NARA's decision to shut down its Anchorage facility. The society says that more than 650 people had signed a petition asking that it remain open.

"These federal records are critical to the history of Alaska," Anjuli Grantham, the vice president of the group's board, said in a written statement.

NARA officials have said that the Anchorage facility recorded just 535 visits last year, while it costs more than $500,000 annually to keep open. The agency's new budget proposed this month is $10 million below last year's.

Reach Nathaniel Herz at or 257-4311.