A major block in downtown Anchorage will be the site of a massive development project, starting with the demolition of a historic theater.
Developer Peach Holdings LLC is expected to spend roughly $200 million to overhaul the city block between 4th and 5th avenues and F and G streets. The developer already owns most of the properties on the block, including the 4th Avenue Theatre. It anticipates initial construction will start this summer on what it’s calling its “Block 41” project.
“The project will include Class A commercial office space, a hotel, retail space, housing options, parking and entertainment venues in the heart of downtown,” Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson said Tuesday at a news conference on the project.
Bronson was flanked by displays of renderings of what the buildings could look like, showcasing modern, window-heavy high-rises. However, officials say the final design is still up in the air.
Bronson said he believes the development will foster economic growth in downtown Anchorage and serve both residents and tourists. He called it the biggest private investment in downtown since the ’80s.
But not everyone is as enthusiastic about the new development as the mayor’s office.
Trish Neal is board president for the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation. She said she’s disappointed that the 4th Avenue Theatre is getting torn down to make way for the new developments.
“May 31 is going to be the 75th anniversary of the grand opening of 4th Avenue Theatre,” Neal said. “And instead of celebrating 75 years, we’re going to be celebrating as a funeral for the building. And it’s just really sad.”
City officials say the theater has a host of internal structural problems, including failing boiler and electrical systems and an open elevator shaft. Bronson said demolition was the only feasible option for the property.
“It has a long history, and we’re sensitive to that,” Bronson said. “But then again, with the asbestos and the lead and the structural issues, it’s unfortunate. The artifacts are in great shape, but the problem is the structure itself. It’s just, you can’t… it’s beyond repair. We’re stuck.”
Neal doesn’t buy it.
“You can get an engineer to write any report that you want,” Neal said. “And I’ve gone through this with a couple different buildings and when it came down to demolishing, it was like, ‘Wow this building wasn’t all that bad.’”
City officials say they plan to preserve artifacts from the theater, including several murals. The iconic “4th Avenue” sign will be taken down and a copy will be made with more modern fixtures for the new structure.
While the developer says initial demolition will start soon, the city did not have an exact timeline for the entire project.