Assembly approves purchase of former LIO building
The Anchorage Assembly approved the purchase of the former LIO building by the Anchorage Community Development Authority Tuesday night. The ACDA then plans to rent it to the Anchorage Police Department as a new downtown headquarters.
The cost is $14 million, far lower than the $40 million the state was told when they inquired about purchasing the building in 2016. But the lower price raised eyebrows for some who considered the price suspiciously low.
Assemblymember Amy Demboski said the deal "reeks of some sort of special favor, and at the end of the day, the taxpayers of Anchorage are going to take it in the shorts".
Sharon Lechner, Chief Financial Officer of Calista Corporation, spoke to the Assembly at the meeting. She is also President of several real estate holdings of the corporation, and a former director of ACDA. She says the typical process of foreclosures didn't happen in this case. She says most banks would hire a broken and send brochures to companies like hers, but did not, and it was not listed on any website she saw, including that of the broker.
Lechner told the Assembly Calista was prepared to make a cash purchase of the building for $14 million. She said Calista would offer other Alaska Native corporations ownership shares of the building at an equal rate to her offer to the Muni, to spread the wealth among Native Corporations.
Other members of the Assembly supported the purchase. Assemblymember Forrest Dunbar asked if the interest from other buyers would be so high if there was no interest from Anchorage Police. Assemblymember Christ Constant said "It makes no sense to hear all other offers at the table all of a sudden because all of a sudden there are five, ten, fifteen other entities that are interested in this property. Folks, you have a really good deal in front of you."
The purchase was still approved by the Assembly by a vote of 8-2. Assemblymembers Amy Demboski and Fred Dyson both voted against the purchase.
ACDA is a quasi-governmental agency that has the authority to spend and borrow money independently -- except when it comes to purchases more than $6 million.
“So, anytime that we buy a piece of property or we sign a lease, that's more than six million, we have to go get approval from the assembly,” said Andrew Halcro, executive director of ACDA. “That's really a safety net that's to protect taxpayers from us going out and spending a ton of money without having it.”
Halcro says the organization, which started as a parking authority, was created to help the city move more quickly on development projects.
“I’m appointed by the mayor and approved by the assembly; our board is all appointed by the mayor and approved by the assembly. So, there is still that symbiotic relationship. At the end of the day, ACDA was created to be more nimble in the ability to do things like this,” Halcro said of the potential LIO purchase.
If all goes according to plan, ACDA hopes to finalize a purchase of the LIO building by the end of the summer.
Liz Raines contributed to this story.
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