Constructing new, large residential buildings downtown is expensive. Here are five buildings where people could live.
Disclaimer: I am not a developer nor a real estate professional; I make no assertions on the availability of these buildings or their suitability in this context. I am not suggesting any government agency or group take any actions. This is purely speculation for the sake of conversation, exploration of adaptive re-use, and the fun of it.
733 W. 4th Avenue
This Class B office building, built in 1971, is assessed at $1.4M, and according to officespace.com, it’s listed for sale at $2.8M. I’ve been curious about this building’s residential potential because of the massive bay windows. Still, I’m unsure why they were diminished by the plaster archway inside or if there are any reasons why it can’t be removed. The front windows overlook 4th Avenue and face the APD HQ Building (formerly the controversial LIO), and the rear has a view of the inlet thanks to a massive surface parking lot behind it. The view could change in the future if someone decides to build there, but it does look like it has a penthouse deck that may be high enough to remain unobstructed.
This place could have some potential to be high-end condominiums with ground-floor retail. Perhaps some upscale digs for attorneys who want to walk to work?
Originally an apartment building called the Caye-Ann Apartments, this building at 831 B Street has been used most recently as a halfway house and at one point the Berkowitz administration considered purchasing it for use as a housing facility for chronic inebriates similar to RurAL CAP’s Karluk Manor.
This building is located just across the street from the Delaney Park Strip, a block from the Anchorage Museum and walking distance to just about anywhere downtown. Much like CIHA’s conversion of the old Duke’s 8th Ave Hotel, this would make a great affordable housing project for young people or those living on a fixed income. The Southern exposure’s large, unshaded blank walls would look great with some solar panels too.
825 L Street
This building is the current home of Anchorage’s Department of Health and Human Services, built in 1963 as Presbyterian Community Hospital. It would later become the Anchorage Community Hospital in 1968. In 2016 the Municipality of Anchorage announced it was seeking an agreement with a developer to swap this location for a new DHSS home – I’m not aware of any progress on this request.
I think this is a really cool building, and its location is ideal for some apartments. The windows open, and the staircases look really cool from the street when illuminated at night. There’s likely some asbestos abatement that needs to be done. However, a conversion would probably be a cheaper alternative considering the cost to demolish a hulking concrete structure like this and new construction costs. With the announcement of the Block 96 Flats going in next door, this has the potential to become a neighborhood.
425 G Street
This class B office building at 5th Avenue and G Street was built in 1963 and was the original headquarters of First National Bank of Alaska. At 9-stories it comes in just under 65,000 SF and according to LoopNet 26.000 SF is vacant and available for lease.
Some might say it’s just a boring cube but I like the simple modernism style, particularly the full-height woodgrain accent which I assume runs the length of the elevator shaft. I think it would make a great apartment building particularly because of the location – The proximity to restaurants, and the PAC. The windows open and there’s a small parking structure on the East side of the building. The future of this building is relatively unknown due to the nearby redevelopment efforts by its owners, Peach Investments which owns almost the entire block. Maybe if Derrick Chang is reading this, he’ll give this some consideration.
Currently shuttered due to the pandemic, the 14-story Westmark Hotel is owned by Holland America Princess, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp. Built in 1973 as the Royal Inn, it was later owned by Bill Sheffield and operated as the Sheffield House. This building is kitty-corner to 425 G Street at 720 W 5th Avenue. It’s a bland and lackluster hotel that seems to serve mainly as layover accommodations for cruise passengers, and its viability in the coming years is questionable.
If you squint hard enough, you’ll see some similarity to Chicago’s Marina City. There’s some potential for mixed-income condominiums here with some larger units on the top floor, the small, private balconies for each unit provide great equity. On-site parking is virtually non-existent but fortunately, there are several parking garages nearby where some long-term agreements could probably be worked out. Along with the nearby 425 G Street, these two buildings could put a significant number of new residents downtown and make a sizeable downpayment on our commitment to transform downtown Anchorage into a living city.