A former Anchorage office building is being overhauled to provide dwellings for elderly residents

A longtime Anchorage home builder has converted an eight-story office building so it can soon provide dwellings for elders who need assisted living.

With their newly renamed Emerald building at 1407 W. 31st Ave., near Minnesota Drive and Benson Boulevard, the developers are targeting Alaska’s aging population, and also aim to bring in Anchorage residents who can interact with the building’s older clients.

“It’s all about giving Alaskans an opportunity to enjoy Alaska in this part of their life,” said Cody Hultquist, vice president with Hultquist Homes.

There will be a senior day center on the top three floors. When that is not operating, the space will be open to private or community events. The building also will have a Mexican-American fusion restaurant that will be open to the public.

Guests can dine out, visit relatives, or take in views of the city and surrounding mountains, he said.

Everything should be up and running in the coming weeks, said Dave Hultquist, the company founder and Cody’s father.

The Emerald building will provide high-end assisted living for 16 residents, each with their own unit, Dave Hultquist said.


The cost for a senior living there will likely run around $11,000 or $12,000 a month, given the round-the-clock care, he said. The cost could rise higher, depending on the level of service needed, he said. Residents or their families will pay with out-of-pocket money and private insurance.

It will have an unusually high number of caregivers, at least one for every four residents, he said.

Dave Hultquist said that seeing his late mother-in-law enter a care facility years ago made him realize that there was a lot of room for improving services at senior homes in Alaska.

The number of Alaskans 65 and older has grown rapidly, while the state’s average population is about a decade older, at 36.5 years old, than during the oil-boom days of the 1970s.

“Elder care is going to be a big deal here,” Dave Hultquist said.

[Alaska’s population is still younger than US but is aging at a dramatic rate]

A growing focus on aging Alaskans

Hultquist Homes has built homes in Anchorage for decades. In recent years, it began creating some senior assisted living, including at a new development in northeast Anchorage called East View.

Hultquist Homes is also working on a new assisted-living housing development in South Anchorage that will give seniors the unusual option of keeping their dogs when they move in, Dave Hultquist said.

The new area allows the company to diversify in a way that serves Alaska’s changing population, he said.

For the Emerald building project, the father-son development team purchased the 1980s-era office tower two years ago. They modernized and spruced up the inside, creating attractive living space with extensive views of the city.

They redid the parking lot and polished up the facade.

They also added the Emerald logo atop the tower in large letters — it used to be called the Chez Braun building.

The new name reflects its exterior color. Plus, the developers wanted to highlight it as a destination, as in, “We’re going to the Emerald building,” Dave Hultquist said.

Besides its color, the building is notable for its rounded sides and stair-stepped look created by the top-floor viewing deck. Built with steel, it has a compact floor plan and footprint for such a tall building.

It rises well above nearby buildings because it received a special height variance during its original construction, which protects its views, Dave Hultquist said.

‘One of a kind’ project

Although Hultquist Homes project raises questions about whether Anchorage could support more office-to-apartment conversions to deal with a housing shortage, developers and a municipal official say such changes are challenging because of the high costs of such projects.

It is an unusual project for Anchorage, said Don Crafts, architectural permitting reviewer for the municipality.


Office-to-apartment conversions are something cities across the U.S. are increasingly pursuing to address housing shortages.

But turning office buildings into residential units is not easy in Anchorage, in part because the changes are very expensive, Crafts said.

“It is possible but in most cases, it takes a lot of money because of the upgrades required to meet code,” Crafts said.

“We’ve had very few of these, certainly with this kind of tall footprint (on a small lot),” he said of the Emerald project. “This is a one-of-a-kind.”

One impediment for a conversion is the cost of altering centralized plumbing for offices to reach bathrooms serving residential units, Crafts said. Requirements for ventilation and fire protection add significantly more costs.

[Once a symbol of ‘growth and prosperity,’ the mostly empty former BP building in Anchorage remains in limbo]

The overhaul at the Emerald was costly, said Dave Hultquist, who declined to provide a specific number.

He’ll be very cautious before he tries a similar conversion project in the future, he said.


He said the company got a fair deal on the building. But soaring costs over the last couple of years helped push expenses to unexpectedly high levels.

“I’ve looked at some other places and the cost is not worth it,” he said. “It’s so expensive to build anything these days, if you’re going to convert office space into residential, the building almost has to be free. It can work, but someone has to take a big hit.”

Restaurant and and event space

Once the Emerald is up and running, the Mexican-American fusion restaurant called Roberto’s will serve a variety of cuisines, said Julie Drayton, who will help oversee the senior services at the Emerald along with her husband, James.

The restaurant, along with a coffee shop, will serve Emerald residents as well as guests in the adult day center. It will be open to the general public, she said, and will be run by chef Roberto Bonilla.

On the four residential floors, the 16 private units will have their own bathroom and bedroom. Residents will share a living room, kitchen and dining area on each floor.

The morning and afternoon day center programs will serve up to 50 people on the top three floors, she said. The seniors will have the opportunity to be part of activities such as painting, knitting, or working on puzzles, if they choose, she said.

They will also have the chance to participate in programs that benefit the community, such as making caps for newborn babies, Drayton said.

When the day center programs are not operating, after 5 p.m. or on weekend days, the top floor will be open for guests, including family visiting relatives.

The space will also be open at those times for events such as weddings, reunions or holiday parties, she said.

“Sometimes people can be forgotten about when they go to assisted living homes,” Drayton said. “But we want to be more than a home and day center. We really want to build a community for people who are partaking in these services.”

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or