Anchorage Assembly quashes Bronson homeless shelter plan

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s plan to build a temporary mass shelter in East Anchorage that would house up to 450 people is dead, at least for now. 

A white man in a suit speaks at a podium
Dr. John Morris speaks during a special presentation of a proposal for a large mass shelter in East Anchorage on June 15, 2021. Morris sent a letter to assembly members last week outlining the costs of a proposed 450-person shelter on the corner of Elmore and Tudor roads. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

At a Tuesday evening meeting, the Anchorage Assembly declined to set a date for public hearing on a plan by the new administration to build the shelter. 

The Assembly decision is a major setback for the administration, which pushed the proposal as a humane and cost-effective way to shelter homeless Anchorage residents. 

Assembly members raised concerns about the size of the shelter. Opposition to the proposal grew after a new construction bid bumped the total cost to build the shelter to $22 million. Several Assembly members were concerned the price could keep growing. 

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Eagle River Assembly member Crystal Kennedy said that as a fiscal conservative, she had concerns about the proposal. She said that after hearing substantial public concern, the city should take more time to look at its options. 

“I think in the spirit of working together, which is so critical, and finally getting to some kind of a solution on this, I think we need that extra time,” she said at the meeting.

Kennedy said that there was progress being made for a compromise between the mayor and the Assembly. 

Several Assembly members are pushing the administration to purchase a former gym that could be converted into a homeless shelter. The former Midtown Alaska Club building on Tudor Road could sleep up to 150 people at a cost of $5.3 million. The administration declined to purchase the gym before a deadline last week. 

RELATED: Anchorage loses $440,000 on canceled Alaska Club purchase

Some Assembly members also suggested they would support building a smaller shelter at the site the administration proposed for its shelter. 

The city was aiming to move the approximately 400 people currently sheltered at the emergency Sullivan Arena shelter to a new one by the beginning of October in order to allow a semi-pro hockey team to practice in the arena. But with no concrete plans currently moving forward, that is unlikely to happen.  

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Lex Treinen covers culture, homelessness, politics and corrections for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@alaskapublic.org.

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