Bronson administration chooses not to sign deal to make former fitness center a homeless shelter

The old Alaska Club building in Midtown Anchorage, Alaska.
The old Alaska Club building in Midtown Anchorage, Alaska.(KTUU)
Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 6:55 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson has decided to not move forward with a plan to make the former Alaska Club building in Midtown a shelter to help people experiencing homelessness.

Friday was the final day for the Bronson administration to make a decision on the former fitness center, which is located on Tudor Road.

Dr. John Morris is the homeless coordinator for the Bronson administration, and said they are going to focus on the $15 million proposed shelter and navigation center that could hold around 400-500 beds. This shelter would be located off Tudor near the former Anchorage Police Department headquarters.

The plan to purchase the former Alaska Club was revised this spring and would have cost about $5.4 million for a shelter with a capacity of about 125.

“For us, this is an opportunity to do something definitive and long-lasting, and make a real change for good for our community,” Morris said. “and we don’t see the Alaska Club being nearly as good an option for that kind of permanent change that we are looking to do.”

But some members of the Anchorage Assembly feel otherwise.

“We hear a lot of complaints from Midtown residents about visible homelessness, and this would have been a place for individuals to go, readily accessible,” said member Meg Zaletel, who represents Midtown on the assembly. “This building actually has a lot of independent utility. It could be homelessness services for this winter while our numbers are elevated and we could reevaluate whether it makes sense for it to be transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, or a crisis stabilization center. There are just so many opportunities with this building that it’s really unfortunate that the administration’s passing that up at this time.”

This comes as the city prepares for the Sullivan Arena to transition away from sheltering those experiencing homelessness by the end of September, to return the venue to its original use for hockey season. Anchorage will face an increase of houseless people in need of a place to stay, as the arena currently shelters about 400 people nightly.

“That is the administration’s imposed deadline, and so if they want to achieve that then we need alternatives by the end of September, and the Alaska Club was ready, and it could have been done by then,” said assembly member Felix Rivera, who also represents Midtown.

Rivera said the Bronson administration claims they will have the proposed $15 million project done by end of September or the beginning of October, but that he has doubts.

“And now they are putting forward this other alternate plan and it’s not well-vetted, there’s so many questions,” he said. “And now they have given us a deadline to get that done by next Tuesday.”

A formal request for the $15 million in funding from the assembly will be on the agenda for introduction at Tuesday’s meeting. Rivera says he will push to postpone taking action on the resolution on Tuesday because he says they simply need more time.

Bronson has said that while he is only looking at one option for a new shelter, he is not opposed to using the old Alaska Club building as an option for dispersing homelessness services.

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