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Anchorage developer gets ultimatum on derelict Fairbanks high-rise

Alaska Dispatch

It has been over a year since the tallest building in Fairbanks was slapped with a big banner saying it was “looking for love again” ... but if it doesn't get some soon, it might be the end for the derelict building. The city of Fairbanks issued an ultimatum to the owner of the Polaris Building, Marc Marlow, on Thursday: Either get the proper permits in place to renovate the downtown Fairbanks high-rise, or start demolition.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that a certified letter, which was posted on the building's boarded up doors and sent to Marlow, announces that the city has declared the building “unfit for human occupancy” and is therefore considered dangerous.

Reasons the city says the Polaris can no longer be occupied by humans include:

  • It has been vacant for 10 years, with no utilities, including heat
  • Water lines, including the fire suppression system, have frozen and leaked on every floor
  • Ice and water, mold and moss are present throughout the building
  • Feces and dead pigeons
  • It is beyond economic feasibility to repair

    The letter also noted that there have been numerous cases of vandalism and break-ins reported to the city, the most recent on July 28.

    Fairbanks Mayor Jerry Cleworth told the News-Miner that the city would try to secure funding from the Fairbanks North Star Borough or the state to help demolish the building if Marlow fails to renovate the building or take it down.

    The Polaris Building has had a long, storied history in Fairbanks, Alaska's second largest city. Built in 1952, at 11 stories high, it has been the tallest building in the Golden Heart City since it was built in 1952. It originally served as an apartment building, and in the 1970s it was home to numerous workers who flooded to Interior Alaska during the pipeline boom.

    In later years, it was known for its fine dining establishments, like the Tiki Cove, Black Angus and Petroleum Club restaurants. The Northern Lights Hotel, the last business to operate in the building, closed its doors in 2001.

    Marlow purchased the building in 2009. It's not the first blighted Alaska building he's renovated; Marlow purchased and renovated Anchorage's McKay Building, which after decades of disuse and blight opened as an apartment complex in 2006.

    Marlow told the News-Miner in 2011 that he hopes to create a mixed-use facility in Fairbanks using the same process he used for the McKay building in Anchorage: government-backed loans, tax exemptions and credits.

    If Marlow chooses to renovate or demolish the Polaris building, he has until March 29, 2013, to supply the appropriate permits to the city. Work must be completed by Sept. 30 of that year.