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Lawmakers want to revamp Anchorage offices

Posted: June 8, 2013 - 11:09pm

ANCHORAGE — Lawmakers are planning to revamp and expand their cramped offices in downtown Anchorage.

The Legislative Council, a joint committee of the House and Senate, voted Friday to let its chairman, Republican Rep. Mike Hawker, begin negotiating a deal with the landlord of the building that houses the offices, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Hawker says the six-story building is dilapidated. There’s only one big room for hearings, and the building is cold in the winter and hot in the summer.

Mark Pfeffer is the building’s new landlord. He’s a politically active architect and developer and already is part of the group that owns Anchorage City Hall.

Plans include having the building’s owners buy the Anchor Pub building next door, and then erect a taller structure there. The legislative building would be gutted and refurbished with be new elevators, bathrooms, a heating and air conditioning system, more windows, and more space for hearing rooms and visiting legislators.

“It’s just at the end of its useful life,” Hawker said Friday after the council meeting. “The Legislature needs to make a commitment to the future. Looking at where we are at here, we chose to go with the option of letting the landlord modify this building and extending our lease.”

Financial terms haven’t been worked out. The council agreed Friday to cap the project’s cost at the market rate for new office space. The Alaska Housing Finance Corp. will determine that.

The Legislature already has set aside about $25 million for renovation of the state Capitol in Juneau and improved Anchorage office space, with most of that going for the Juneau project, Hawker said.

The deal won’t improve the amount of parking available, however, and legislative staffers may be directed to park elsewhere during busy times to open up spots for the public, Hawker said.

The redone building should feature a large hearing room that could hold all 40 House members as well as one that could accommodate the 20-member Senate, depending on how close legislators are willing to sit to each other, Hawker said.

The building occupies a prime downtown spot. Public records show the owner as a limited liability company headed by Anchorage restaurateur and businessman Bob Acree. Pfeffer is gaining an ownership sh are in the corporation and will be the managing partner, Hawker said.

Pfeffer is an active political donor who has given to Republicans and Democrats, including many on the council.

In May, the council put out a “request for information” to see what other office space might be available and only heard back about two buildings, one in Midtown built over a ground floor parking lot and too small for the Legislature, and the old Carr-Gottstein headquarters in a South Anchorage industrial area, Hawker said. Neither would have worked as well as their current space, he said.

Legislators in 2011 considered constructing a new office building next to City Hall, but financing by the Anchorage Community Development Authority fell through. The same year, the Legislature lost out to Nana Regional Corp. in trying to buy the former Unocal-Chevron building downtown.

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