The former Alaska Club building on Tudor Road is no longer being considered as a site for new homeless services in Anchorage.
Anchorage Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson announced that the city was moving on from the potential purchase in a written statement Wednesday.
The site was part of a larger plan launched this year by former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz to buy four buildings for homeless and treatment services, in part using federal CARES Act funds, transforming how the city approaches homelessness.
The Alaska Club was initially going to be a day-engagement center, providing day shelter as well as services such as job training and other life skills. Eventually, the city hoped to turn it into an overnight shelter.
During that process, it became clear that the cost of the building and necessary renovations would be more than initially anticipated, the city’s statement said.
“The administration promised to the Assembly and the public to conduct a thorough due diligence process, and only move forward if the deal penciled out for Anchorage taxpayers,” Quinn-Davidson said. “We are keeping that promise.”
The city’s plan to buy the former Alaska Club, along with the Best Western Golden Lion Inn, Bean’s Cafe, Americas Best Value Inn & Suites, quickly became controversial. A number of residents near the proposed properties opposed the plan, saying it would increase crime and lower property values in the area.
Over the course of the summer, the group swelled, increasingly attending Assembly meetings to show opposition to the plan to bolster homeless services, as well as general opposition to the Assembly and mayoral administration’s progressive-leaning approach to city governance.
Several members of the public filed complaints with the U.S. Treasury, saying the city was misusing COVID-19 relief money by setting aside $12.5 million in federal CARES Act funds to spend on the buildings.
The Treasury’s Office of Inspector General was concerned about the city’s plan, but Treasury officials ultimately suggested the city spend its CARES Act money on first-responder payroll, and then use whatever general funds that offset for priorities such as buildings for homeless services. The city followed that advice.
Not only did that remove strings attached to the money, it also lengthened the city’s timeline. The hope was to get the buildings purchased and renovated as quickly as possible to shelter homeless people during winter, but also comply with a rule stating CARES Act money had to be spent by the end of the year.
Ira Slomski-Pritz, special assistant to Quinn-Davidson, said the city still intends to purchase a building for day and overnight shelter, and the money remains available for that and the other buildings, which are still being considered by city officials.