Assembly to consider purchasing Arctic Rec Center for use as homeless shelter

The Anchorage Assembly is considering purchasing the Arctic Rec Center for use as a homeless shelter.
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 6:18 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - When it comes to tackling homeless issues in Anchorage, Mayor Dave Bronson and the Anchorage Assembly agree on one thing: The state should provide more funding to help with homeless resources.

The administration and Assembly have submitted a joint request to the Legislature for $25 million to fund more shelter beds and housing options. Recently, several assembly members traveled to Juneau to lobby for funding for a specific project, purchasing the Arctic Rec Center in Midtown Anchorage and turning it into a permanent low-barrier homeless shelter. In February, Anchorage’s Emergency Shelter Task Force made the same recommendation.

Anchorage Assembly Housing and Homelessness Committee Chair Felix Rivera said the Assembly as a whole hasn’t voted on the purchase, but he believes the Rec Center has a lot to offer.

“We are getting a building that can have about 150 shelter beds, navigation services, day services,” said Rivera. “And then we are also getting about another 8 to 9 acres of land behind the building that have utilities connected to them already and we can build housing on those 8 to 9 acres.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Bronson said the mayor is still committed to the proposed East Anchorage navigation center at Tudor and Elmore roads which the Assembly shot down. As for the Arctic Rec Center, spokesperson Hans Rodvik said the mayor’s office foresees future difficulties with bringing it online.

“The Mayor and the administration believe there are significant challenges with turning this property into a homeless shelter, including that it is in direct relation to an elementary school, a church, a large neighborhood, and a playground,” Rodvik wrote in an emailed statement. “The Mayor encourages the Assembly to involve the surrounding neighborhood in a robust discussion about the future of the Arctic Rec Center, prior to buying it with Municipal resources and attempting to turn it into a homeless shelter.”

Rivera said the Assembly will hold a work session at the end of March to determine whether members want to move forward with pursuing the purchase of the building, adding there are still many questions that would have to be answered before that could happen.