Anchorage Police Department Will Move Into Downtown

The Anchorage Police Department may move its headquarters to a prime piece of real estate: The sleek former Alaska legislative office building on Fourth Avenue downtown.

On Tuesday, police officials revealed negotiations on a lease deal with the Anchorage Community Development Authority, the city parking and redevelopment authority that said three weeks ago it wants to buy the building.

The deal would mean that more than 150 police employees, including detectives, would move from crammed headquarters at Tudor and Elmore roads into offices at 716 W. Fourth Ave. State lawmakers vacated the building in 2016 after a judge ruled the Alaska Legislature’s lease there was illegal.

Officials said the move would improve public safety downtown and build momentum for revitalization efforts.

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“It’s hugely significant for downtown,” said Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. “It’s critical for public safety; it saves the taxpayers money.”

Draft terms provided to the Daily News show a $1.5 million yearly lease for the building, which would come out of the police budget.

The deal is the brainchild of Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll, who said his department has looked with increasing urgency for new or renovated headquarters for more than a decade. The longtime headquarters in the university-medical district, built in 1986, has run out of space, he said.

“We have lieutenants working in broom closets,” Doll said.

Past studies have estimated the cost of renovating the existing headquarters at upward of $68 million, Doll said. When he heard the Anchorage Community Development Authority would be buying the Fourth Avenue building, he said, he immediately started to think about his options.

Police would not entirely vacate the Tudor-Elmore building in moving downtown, Doll said. The building would still house police dispatch operations and records clerks, and would be renovated to store the agency’s mounting troves of evidence, which are currently scattered throughout Anchorage. He said that was a problem he had already been working to solve.

Police vehicles would still be stored at the Tudor-Elmore building, Doll said. But he said there should be enough parking in and around the Fourth Avenue building, where there is a two-story garage and a lot. Officers on patrol come in only briefly at the start and end of shifts, Doll said.

The building is near the state and federal courthouses and will save detectives a significant amount of driving time, Doll said.

Andrew Halcro, executive director of the Anchorage Community Development Authority, said the deal makes business sense for his agency. APD would be a stable tenant at a time of high downtown vacancy rates, he said.

He said a commercial tenant might have required significant renovations. Police, meanwhile, plan to make very few changes to the building, Doll said, because it was already built for government.

Halcro’s agency is counting on the lease revenue to pay back a $14 million loan for the building’s acquisition. The building moved into bank ownership after a foreclosure settlement earlier this year with 716 West Fourth Avenue LLC, a company owned by developers Mark Pfeffer and Bob Acree.

The Assembly is slated to vote this month on the ACDA purchase of the building and would also have to approve an eventual lease with the police department.