Anchorage working group narrows down potential shelter sites to 7

Three men wearing masks and a woman sit ata  table with coffee cups in front of them
Assembly member John Weddleton speaks at a Sept. 9, 2021 rules committee meeting where he presented a list of shelter options (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

A working group made up of three Anchorage Assembly members and three Bronson administration representatives say they’ve narrowed down the city’s potential near-term shelter sites to seven. 

South Anchorage Assembly member John Weddleton presented the sites to the Assembly at a meeting Thursday.

The sites are: 

  • Sullivan Arena — Currently in use as a mass care shelter housing 400 people. It is the “no action” option for the shelter talks.
  • 3330 Denali St. — A former Johnson Tire shop.
  • 550 Bragaw St. — Formerly Pacific Northern Academy and Williwaw Elementary School.
  • 4468 Gambell St. — A former Alaska Club near the intersection of Gambell Street and Tudor Road. It was proposed by the previous administration to shelter up to 150 people. 
  • Tudor-Elmore APD site — An evidence lot owned by the Anchorage Police Department. The Bronson administration proposed building a new temporary shelter on the lot that could sleep up to 450 people.
  • Tudor-Elmore — An alternative site across the street from the APD site near the Tozier dog sled track. A similar structure to the one proposed on the APD lot would be built from scratch.
  • W. 54th Ave. — A former location of the Clare House.

The city opened the mass shelter at Sullivan Arena last March as the coronavirus pandemic began. 

City officials are now hoping to move people out of the arena as soon as possible so that a new semi-pro hockey team can start playing there. But Assembly members said they’re realizing that the Sullivan will stay in use for longer than they hoped. 

“There’s some recognition that there’s no rush, that we’re going to be able to pursue to change anything by October or November,” said Downtown Assembly member Christopher Constant, who is part of the working group. 

The other members are Weddleton and Midtown Assemblymember Meg Zaletel as well as Craig Campbell, John Morris and Larry Baker from the Bronson administration.

Weddleton said the group whittled down the list of proposed shelter sites from nearly 70 options. 

At a previous meeting, the Assembly put aside $200,000 to start doing cost estimates on the sites. That job went to The Boutet Company, a local project management firm. 

“The hope is a spreadsheet that you can actually review the details of the cost of operations, the cost of potential buildings,” said Constant. 

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Assembly members said they hope to have more information available on the options by an Oct. 5 work session, and preliminary cost estimates by Oct. 15. 

The working group is trying to decide two separate questions: How to best move people out of the Sullivan Arena in the short term, and the best site for a long-term shelter. 

If they aren’t able to find a suitable option to move out of the Sullivan Arena in the short term, the group’s discussions might turn toward a longer-term solution. That could mean other options are added to the current list.

The Assembly also heard that the Aviator Hotel, which currently houses 200 residents downtown, won’t be available through February, as initially planned. Those people could be housed in other hotels if beds are located, or they could become part of the planning for new shelter sites. 

“My big optimistic stance is: Wherever we land will be better than where we are now,” said Weddleton.

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