Connecting Alaska to the World And the World to Alaska
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

City, Downtown Association Try New Tact to Gain Authority to Demolish Old Polaris Hotel

KUAC file photo

Officials with a group formed to find a way to demolish the old, abandoned Polaris Hotel in Downtown Fairbanks say they’ve come up with a way to finally accomplish that goal. Organizers say they’ve raised more than half of the amount of money they need to carry out a plan to foreclose on the property so they can knock down the crumbling, contaminated building.

City Councilman David Pruhs announced Monday that the Polaris Building Work Group is more than halfway along on a fund-raising effort that’ll be used as part of a plan to demolish the old hotel, after years of unsuccessful attempts by the city to get its owner to clean it up or knock it down.

Pruhs told fellow council members at the end of Monday’s meeting that the work group is raising money to buy the note from a lender who loaned Polaris owner Marc Marlow $130,000. He says the group had to get the deal done quickly, because the note was scheduled to expire next Tuesday.

“We had an option to purchase the note with fifteen thousand dollars down – it’s for a hundred thirty thousand dollars,” he said, “and it expires on May 15th.”

Pruhs says the work group says it entered into a contract with the lender to buy the note, starting with the $15,000 down payment. And he says the Downtown Association of Fairbanks paid the lender $5,000 to extend the note through the end of the year. He says that boosted the cost to buy the note to a $135,000, and the group’s members have raised more than half the remaining amount needed to buy the note.

Credit KUAC file photo
The interior of the Polaris is in terrible shape after years of neglect and vandalism by people who've broken-in to the old structure. It's also contaminated with black mold and asbestos.

“To date, we have either raised or have (had) people commit, organizations commit, approximately 70-thousand dollars so far,” he said. “So, we’re about 55-thousand dollars out.”

Downtown Association Executive Director David van den Berg says his organization plays the role of aggregator of donations and sponsorships, which it then passes along to the city.

“We’re just an aggregator of community support for getting rid of the Polaris Building,” van den Berg said. “It’s a long game, but this is a really important, fairly large step.”

Pruhs says the work group is fund-raising because the city’s tight budget doesn’t have $130,000 to spare. He said Tuesday that buying the note will give the city a legal basis for demolishing the Polaris, the tallest building in town that was condemned in 2012 due to contamination and safety problems.

“We can purchase the note and foreclose on the Polaris Building,” he said.

City officials have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Marlow to do something about the derelict 11-story structure that was built in 1952. Pruhs says he’s never spoken to Marlow, and doesn’t know what he thinks of the city’s plans. But he says at this point, after so many disappointing efforts by the city to come to some kind of agreement with Marlow, it’s not necessary to confer with him about the demo plan.

“It’s beside the point,” Pruhs said.

Marlow did not return phone calls and e-mails Tuesday to his Anchorage-based development company.

Pruhs says the downtown association is collecting donations from those who’d like to contribute to the effort. He says the work group hopes to be able to secure the note before the end of the year and to move ahead on demolishing the Polaris as soon as possible thereafter.

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.