The controversial former Legislative Information Office at 716 West 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage will have a new tenant: the Anchorage Police Department. The LIO moved out of the location after an expensive and opulent renovation was extensively criticized. The building has been vacant for two years. But now the Anchorage Community Development Authority is buying the building and will lease it to the police department.
The Anchorage Community Development Authority announced its plans to buy the building last month.
Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll says that the building will house APD’s headquarters, which is currently on Elmore Drive. That means most of the department will be downtown, including most detectives, some dispatch workers, the crime suppression unit and administration. He says the proximity to downtown allows for more efficiencies in the department.
“Think about detectives being right across the street from the courthouse instead of a half-hour drive away,” Doll said. “And so if you need to run to the courthouse to appear in court, or apply for a search warrant, you add an hour onto however long that’s going to take to drive there and back. And now it’s a 30-second walk across the street.”
Doll says since the mid-2000s, APD has been trying to find more areas to house evidence, seized property and various other items. Additionally, the police department has almost doubled in size since the 1980s — when the department moved from its original downtown Anchorage location.
“These are great problems to have. We have a whole lot of staff and we have them out collecting police reports and collecting evidence,” Doll said. “And so we need space to store that stuff. So, I mean, that’s not a bad problem to have, any part of that. But it can be a difficult problem to solve and a very expensive problem to solve, when you start looking at building new facilities to house all that.”
Doll says that rather than buy a storage facility, for an estimated $40 million, leasing the former LIO building and using the old Elmore building for a bulk of the department’s storage was a more fiscally sound plan. He said the department will lease the new building for about $1.5 million a year.
Even though the LIO building was designed specifically with the idea of housing the legislature, Doll says moving in doesn’t require many changes.
“It’s actually surprisingly easy,” Doll said. “It’s a very unusual layout. I think it would be difficult for another entity to be in there, but for us, the first time I walked through it I realized it’s gonna require almost no modification. We’re basically going to be able to move right in.”
Andrew Halcro is the director of the Anchorage Community Development Authority. He says that initially, the state was going to pay $32 million for the LIO building. The ACDA will pay $14 million. Halcro says that ACDA owning the property does more for the city than if the state did.
“If legislators were to buy that building, as they proposed two years ago, there would’ve been zero paid to the city,” Halcro said. “They would’ve just basically had a tax-free building, not contributed anything for services because state property taxes, With ACDA buying the building, you still have that property tax revenue churn, you still have fees on gross revenue.”
As far as benefits to citizens, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says that the new location will help keep Anchorage safe and revitalize downtown Anchorage, making it more appealing for other businesses. He says it isn’t uncommon for major cities to have police headquarters downtown.
“There’s a reason why most police headquarters are in the downtowns of their cities,” Berkowitz said. “It’s close to where their partner agencies operate, it’s close to the courthouses and it is close to the center of activity in the community. And as we restore the police department to downtown Anchorage, we’re going to make sure those benefits also happen for Anchorage as well.”
Berkowitz also added that simply having an increased police presence in a major area of Anchorage will make the area safer.
Halcro says the purchase of the former LIO building should be finalized by early August, and Chief Doll wants to get the department moved in by late summer or early fall.
Source: pps Alaska