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Legislators looking at Wells Fargo building in Spenard for their new Anchorage home

  • Author: Nathaniel Herz
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published April 27, 2016

JUNEAU -- A new proposal under consideration by the Alaska Legislature would relocate lawmakers' Anchorage offices from downtown to Spenard.

Legislators are eyeing a building owned by Wells Fargo & Co. near the intersection of Benson Boulevard and Minnesota Drive, said Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage and the House majority leader.

The 47,000-square-foot, four-story office complex went on sale about a month ago and can be purchased for the assessed value of about $12 million, said Marc Dunne, the Jack White Real Estate broker who's selling the building.

"To me, it's a no-brainer," Dunne said in a phone interview Wednesday.

A committee of legislative leaders, the Legislative Council, voted March 31 to buy their current Anchorage offices, on Fourth Avenue, for $32.5 million, rather than move to state-owned space in the Atwood Building nearby. The Fourth Avenue building has nearly 43,000 square feet of space, while the Legislature would get about 34,100 square feet at the Atwood Building.

But two weeks later, Gov. Bill Walker warned lawmakers he'd veto the purchase if they put the money in the Legislature's budget. He said the state shouldn't be buying new property while it's facing a $4 billion deficit.

Walker's veto threat has pushed lawmakers to consider other options, since the 10-year, no-bid lease for their existing, newly renovated space was declared illegal and invalid last month by Anchorage Superior Judge Patrick McKay.

Lawmakers are "looking at another building" that would cost "considerably less," Council Chair Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, said in an interview Wednesday. But he wouldn't specify which one, saying publicity may hurt the chances of a deal being struck.

Millett said she thought the Wells Fargo building would be a "reasonable option" for legislators, as well as the Atwood Building. She was one of the 13 council members who voted to buy the existing Legislative Information Office, or LIO, last month, but she's since decided staying there would be "unreasonable," she said.

"It really should be taken off the table," said Millett. "I do not support buying the Anchorage LIO at $32.5 million anymore. I just can't -- the hurdle's too high."

Walker, at a news conference Wednesday, said it was "too soon" for him to say whether he'd veto a purchase by the Legislature of another Anchorage building.

Dunne, the real estate broker, said he sent the Legislature information about the Wells Fargo building, arguing it was a "viable alternative." He said he spoke briefly to Stevens about it, but hasn't heard back from the Legislature in a few days.

"They just said it was something they're going to consider and they're going to get back to me on it," he said.

Dunne is not the only broker to pitch lawmakers on a new space. Another broker representing Coastal Villages Regional Fund, which owns the building at 711 H St. downtown -- near the ConocoPhillips building -- sent lawmakers a letter this month saying that space was available there.

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