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New Study Outlines Polaris Building Contamination ‘in Every Floor, Every Room’

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Dan Bross/KUAC
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A federal study details contamination inside a deteriorating downtown Fairbanks landmark.

Fairbanks City Councilmember David Pruhs says the more than 732-page Environmental Protection Agency analysis catalogues a range of contaminants inside the long vacant Polaris Hotel.

“We have black mold, green mold, asbestos, the things that are in light bulbs that (have) exploded,” he said. “We have all sorts of those things in every floor, every room of the building.”

Pruhs says the so-called Brownfields study is needed to move ahead with a plan to demolish the 11-story Polaris. Built in 1952, Fairbanks tallest building has suffered from vacancy and neglect, and was condemned in 2012.  Mold and asbestos have long been known to be issues, and Pruhs says the EPA report is missing some specific information.

“The report showed the locations and types of every (contaminated site) there,” he said. “But what they didn’t do was give the amounts of each one that was there, and the estimated cost to remediate. And that’s what we really need.”

Pruhs says the city has asked for the additional information. He chairs a group that’s working toward demolition of the structure, which is owned by Anchorage businessman Mark Marlow. Marlow has failed to secure financing to realize a plan to redevelop the property into apartments.

The city has envisioned building a performing arts center at the downtown Polaris site, but estimates put the cost of demolition alone at around $6 million. Pruhs says there’s potential for federal funding, as Senator Lisa Murkowski is requesting a $70 million appropriation for a comprehensive solution.

“Everything that would be ever involved with the city, in knocking down the building, acquiring an entire block and acquiring the block across the street, and doing studies of what should be there.”

Pruhs emphasizes there’s no guarantee the money will come through, and that the city continues to work with Marlow to address the Polaris.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.