The Alaska State Legislature appears to be exploring new options for office space in Anchorage following Governor Bill Walker threatening to veto funding for a $32.5 million offer to purchase the current Legislative Information Office (LIO) in downtown Anchorage.
Sources inside the legislature have confirmed the Legislative Council, the joint House-Senate committee overseeing the project, is now targeting the Wells Fargo building on the corner of Minnesota Dr and W. Benson Blvd for purchase.
There are also unconfirmed reports that a small group of legislators and staff have been dispatched to tour the building today. The group is said to include Legislative Council Chairman Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak), Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair Sen. Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River), House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Craig Johnson (R-Anchorage), and Chief of Staff to Sen. Stevens Katrina Matheny.
According to data available on the Alaska Multiple Listing Service (MLS) the four-story building offers 52,987 square feet of Class A office space and comes with 190 on-sight parking spaces. The listed asking price is $12.5 million.
The current Anchorage LIO offers 64,000 square feet of Class A office space and 100 parking spaces.
One interesting aspect of the Legislature exploring the Wells Fargo Building is that it represents a departure from one “must have” legislators have long stated they needed in any Anchorage legislative office space, that it be downtown.
Legislators, including Rep. Mike Hawker and Sen. Kevin Meyer, have long cited the need for an Anchorage LIO to be downtown so that it complies with municipal land-use planning documents. The Anchorage Bowl Comprehensive Plan and Anchorage Downtown Comprehensive Plan both say it is municipal policy to “Locate municipal, state, and federal administrative offices in the Central Business District.”
A Request For Information (RFI) issued by the Legislative Affairs Agency on May 14, 2013 seeking new proposals for legislative office space even listed among the minimum requirements for any new legislative office space that it “Comply with all planning and zoning ordinances and Municipal development plans for government facilities.”
Until now all of the publicly discussed options for Anchorage legislative office space (the current LIO, the state owned Atwood Building, and the Sunshine Plaza), have been downtown.
For his part, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz is not supportive of the potential move of the legislative offices out of downtown. In an interview this morning Berkowitz said he supports the Muni’s current policy and legislators should respect it, “They are members of the community, they should follow community rules.”