Legislators hope for new office space in Anchorage

Alaska legislators hope to bid on the old Unocal building in Anchorage for legislative office space.

The Legislative Council on Friday voted 10 to 2 to authorize a bid on the building on West Ninth Street, along the Delaney Park Strip. It would replace the West Fourth Avenue building, long deemed cramped and inadequate, with little parking.

The council has been looking at the Unocal building for some time, but postponed a vote in August. Now it appears the legislature is second in line. Owners already have a bid, reportedly from an unnamed Alaska Native corporation. If the two cannot reach agreement by the end of the month, the Legislative Council has authorized negotiations to begin.

Juneau Senator Dennis Egan, a Democrat, is a member of the bipartisan group that represents both houses. He says most of Friday’s discussion was in executive session, as members worked through the issues. He says he reluctantly voted “yes.”

“We’re leasing the current facility in Anchorage – the legislative offices — and it costs us a lot of money every year, and for the state to own something just makes a heck of a lot of sense,” Egan says. “It’s just like the buildings in Juneau.”

The six-floor, 55,000 square foot Unocal building would have enough offices for Anchorage lawmakers and visiting legislators. Egan says he takes comfort in the fact that the utility corridor is straight up the middle of the structure, so it could not be renovated into a legislative hall.

“The utilidors, the elevators, the restrooms, all that stuff, is in the middle of the building,” he says.

The $6.7 million building is 40 years old and in need of renovation. It was previously owned by Chevron Corporation. About 18 months ago the legislature put in a bid, which failed. Now it’s owned by a limited liability corporation headed by Anchorage businesswoman Janice Ellsworth.

Egan says the owners are currently doing abatement of asbestos and other hazardous materials.