Anchorage Assembly members advocate for use of city-owned former Golden Lion Hotel as treatment center

Anchorage Assembly members are pushing back on a proposal to abandon the former Golden Lion Hotel as a treatment center
Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 5:46 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The former Golden Lion Hotel was purchased by the city in December of 2020 with the idea that it would be used as a substance abuse treatment center for up to 100 people. Neighbors were wary of the project, as was Mayor Dave Bronson when he was running for office. Now the mayor says the site isn’t a good spot for a treatment center at all.

On Thursday, the mayor shared a letter from the Alaska Department of Transportation with Anchorage Assembly members that stated the busy intersection of 36th Avenue and the Seward Highway — where the former hotel is located — is also the site of a planned highway safety project. The letter said if the project does go through, it was highly likely the state would need to take the property to complete the pending project.

“After consultation from the Department of Law based off of this new information from the DOT and PF to eventually take the Golden Lion Hotel property, it does not make sense to set up a treatment facility in a location that will be taken away,” Bronson wrote in an email.

But some assembly members disagree, pointing out that project estimated to cost $100 million and is in no way certain as it could be years before getting off the ground.

“It’s not funded, it’s not even funded for final design, it’s not in the State Transportation Improvement Plan,” said assembly member Meg Zaletel. “It’s all very speculative until we know that there’s money for design, let alone money for construction.”

Department of Transportation Spokesperson Justin Shelby agreed the project has a way to go before it could become a reality.

“We need this project added to the state’s list of priorities in order to receive federal funding,” Shelby said. “Once that happens, under ideal circumstances, we are looking at five years till construction.”

Zaletel said uncertainty over the project shouldn’t stop the city from going forward with a treatment center at the former hotel, and she criticized the administration’s stance.

“I think it’s an inappropriate letter,” Zaletel said. “It’s a way to kick the can down the road on the Golden Lion, instead of opening it for much-needed substance misuse treatment which was the intent, that is the intent of the money that was used to purchase it.”

Also representing District 4, Assembly member Felix Rivera is floating another idea for the facility.

“We know we have a crisis right now with 350 unsheltered individuals, so why don’t we consider the Golden Lion as an emergency shelter response, so that we don’t have to use the Spenard or the Fairview Rec Centers,” Rivera said in an interview Friday.

Rivera has asked the Emergency Shelter Task Force to consider the idea, which has indicated that it will.

The Bronson administration didn’t respond to a specific question about using the former hotel as a temporary emergency shelter. However, spokesperson Corey Allen Yount sent a statement saying the mayor supports getting treatment services to people who need them.

“As part of due diligence, the administration is supporting the opening of treatment centers with Providence and Salvation Army in the near future and evaluating other locations and possible options to address substance misuse treatment and current community needs.”