Well, now it is official: The 4th Avenue Theatre will be demolished this summer. Wouldn’t it be appropriate if it was demolished July 4 to celebrate our history? Those San Franciscan carpetbaggers have deceived those who blithely thought that at least part of the theater would be saved for the past 13 years. And I have a Knik Arm bridge to sell those of you who believed that. Now we will lose the historic center of our city, where I’ve lived for 67 years — and it ain’t comin’ back.Many of us have done what we could to save the building, where I began attending movies at age 3 in 1955, by being a part of the several iterations of Friends of the 4th, Save the 4th, May the 4th Be With You, etc. My Historic Preservation Team even was awarded the project to save the theater back in 2006. I worked on the project until the summer of 2007, when the funding went bye-bye.
My idea was and still is to save the building in situ and have it as a cultural center that could house theater groups (we’d just have to vacate the alleyway to get backstage circulation), dance groups (the Sydney Laurence Room would be a great hall for ballet and dance practice), art groups to work on and sell their art, tours of the historic theater for tourists year-round and so much more. The Performing Arts Center could connect with the theater with the already existing bridge across Fifth Avenue and through another Fang/Chang building — the old Key Bank.If the replacement is anything like the building the Fang/Changs built at the corner of C Street, Northern Lights and Benson, there goes the neighborhood — what little we have left! Or the Key Bank replacement that is so insensitive to historic Anchorage and the Alaska subarctic, as depicted in the Perkins & Will rendering on Valentine’s Day in the ADN.
Now we will have a hole where the theater used to be, and who knows when its alleged replacement will be built? If the people of Anchorage would have passed the bond to save the theater many years ago or the city of Anchorage would have purchased the theater when it had the chance, we would not be in this position.Anchorage will rue the day it let the 4th Avenue Theatre be demolished.
— Sam Combs
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