Mayoral candidate Coffey joins opposition to razing Government Hill properties

Anchorage mayoral candidate Dan Coffey has entered the fight to stop properties in the Government Hill neighborhood of Anchorage from being razed in preparation for a potential bridge that would span from the neighborhood. Coffey is adding his voice the voices of a handful of state Democratic officials and community activists, including Rep. Les Gara and Sen. Johnny Ellis, in calling for a halt of the demolition.

On Thursday, Coffey emailed Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration, urging them to hold off on the demolition until funding sources needed to build the bridge are secure. He plans to continue to communicate with the administration about the project.

“It makes no sense what so ever to tear down those properties when there is a housing crisis in the community,” Coffey said. He’s made affordable housing one of the big issues in his nascent campaign.


Inside of house slated for demolition

One boarding house, one residential home, and one 32-room hotel are slated for destruction. All told, the state has spent about $3 million acquiring the properties. On July 3rd, the Department of Transportation issued a press release announcing that it will begin to solicit bids to demolish those properties.

When the state bought the properties, they were occupied. Now they’re empty. DOT says that it would be too complicated to get them ready to rent out. However, DOT is no stranger to the rental business. Among the properties that DOT rents is the strip club Good Time Charlie’s on the Kenai Peninsula. DOT bought that property in 1991, when it planned to widen the highway which never got widened. The state paid $249,000 for it then and still only charges $2,490 a year.

Like the widening of the highway, it’s far from guaranteed that the Knik Arm Bridge will come to fruition. The project, the most recent incarnation of which, has been a decade in the making, is now dependent on a $300 million federal loan. It’s a loan that has been turned down repeatedly throughout the years,

In the meantime, Coffey thinks that a rental management company should take over the properties. “There no reason to demolish the properties until they get funding for the bridge,” he said.

Coffey is no stranger to the debate. He has worked with the state to keep it from forcing businesses in the neighborhood—a Tesoro Gas Station and a Subway– to close in advance of the bridge. He was able to do so because the businesses were on Alaska Railroad property.

Bob French, who lives in the neighborhood and has long been an opponent of the bridge, welcomes Coffey into the debate. “He’s a voice of reason that a lot of people should listen to,” French said.

He also said that he is meeting with community members to come up with a strategy. One idea that the community has discussed is lying down in front of bulldozers. That, of course, is a dramatic last resort.

One of the smaller houses slated for destruction is the former home of Anchorage writer Charles Wohlforth. The house, built in the 1950s, was designed to look like a picture from a house that was featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Wohlforth said. Wohlforth lived in the 2,400 square foot house for 14 years. He moved out in 2002. He and his family completely gutted and remodeled it. They tore down and sheet-rocked walls and ceilings. They put in the fireplace, and a banister. They redid the bathrooms. He built a new Arctic entry. Cherry wood flooring covers much of the house. Former Rep. Pete Kott redid the floors after about 10 years of use.

Now it sits empty.

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8 thoughts on “Mayoral candidate Coffey joins opposition to razing Government Hill properties

  1. WHK

    Thank you Dan Coffey for getting engaged and recognizing the fool-minded approach that KABATA has been pursuing. Razing the properties now, for a project that won’t be developed for years if ever, will ruin the neighborhood with urban blight. Likewise, if the project is not built, the state will have avoided the unnecessary cost of demolition and will have retained some value in the assets. Why public officials can’t understand this simple concept blows my mind.

  2. Cheri

    Okay, Derp. I was surprised because from reading your posts over time, I thoughjt you were a pretty smart and thoughtful guy. Sorry for jumping the gun and making unfair assumptions.
    II still think you’re pretty smart and sometimes funny!

  3. Lynn Willis

    Finally a glimmer of hope from rational minds across the political spectrum. I suspect this premature demolition is Parnell and his ilk hoping voters will confuse motion with progress as he expects to happen with with the AKLNG pipeline, Susitna Dam, Ambler Road, Road to Nome, Sale of the North Pole Refinery, Gas to Fairbanks, Record breaking state spending, etc. If these buildings are destroyed before the November election I would expect Parnell to be there with his gold shovel and ribbon cutting scissors to signify actual start of bridge construction.
    Absent confirmed funding for the bridge project why would you destroy these properties? I understand they were appraised at several hundreds of thousands of dollars as late as 2013. Why take them off the tax rolls so early to pass an additional burden on the rest of us? Why not lease them with the caveat that they will be removed when the project is actually ready.

  4. Derp

    My comment was meant to be merely humorous.. I was pleasantly suprised to see the headline and am happy to find areas of common ground between parties. (I also did not know the bit about Coffey being a reformed democrat).
    More broadly, couldn’t agree more. Fiscal responsibility shouldn’t be partisan, and democrats (as well as big budget Rs like Parnell) absolutely must find a way to make their policy plans jive with basic economics. And it’s not impossible. There are progressive solutions to problems like low wages and people being uninsured- that run with market forces, not against them. Unfortunately, the Rs are too regressive and the Ds apparently all flunked Econ 101.. So I’m without a party to enthusiastically support.

  5. Cheri

    Come on Derp, Coffey is a good guy. He use to be the Chair of the Democratic Party’s Fundraising effort during Gov. Cowper’s administration – – you know, before they all turned into anti-capitalists and hating anything and everything that made money. I know Dan and saving these structures isn’t a partisan issue. Come on Derp, I think you’re a part of the problem in Alaska – – you’re smart, informed and yet yout response is lazy and uncaring. Let’s work together, when and where possible, for the betterment of our community. Fiscal responsibility isn’t solely a Republican or Democrat position; rather, it should be looked at as good government. The community of Government Hillis ethnically and culturally diverse, including Democrats, Republicans, Independents and God only knows what else. As a community, let’s all work together. I applaud Dan Coffey’s interest and leadership. He’ll make a great mayor. Wish he was already in office.

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