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Fairbanks' derelict Polaris Building condemned

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Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 3:34 pm | Updated: 11:21 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

Updated 1:25 p.m.

Correction: Fairbanks mayor Jerry Cleworth said the city would work with the borough to request funding from the state if the Polaris Building’s current owner does not renovate or demolish the building. The city will not seek borough funding. Earlier versions of the story were incorrect.

FAIRBANKS — The Anchorage owner of the Polaris Building has a March 2013 deadline to either begin fixing up the derelict high-rise or start tearing it down.

Vacant for more than 10 years, the former hotel at the corner of First Avenue and Noble Street was declared a dangerous building unfit for human occupancy Thursday. The Fairbanks City Building Department posted a notice on the building’s boarded-up doors and sent a letter to owner Marc Marlow.

According to the letter, whether Marlow chooses to renovate or demolish the building, he must obtain the appropriate permits by March 29 and finish the work no later than Sept. 30, 2013. Marlow can appeal the city building department’s condemnation of the building.

Contacted by phone for this story Marlow said he had not yet heard about the city’s decision to condemn the building. He said he did not have time to talk to the News-Miner about the

building.

The Fairbanks City Council has considered a few approaches to help Marlow renovate the Polaris Building to develop the building and spare the city the expense of tearing it down.

In 2006, the council passed a property tax deferral and partial tax exemption. In 2011, it considered and rejected an ordinance that would have let Marlow defer certain building and fire fees until after the renovation. The building would cost an estimated $3.4 million to demolish and would significantly impact the borough landfill if it came down, according to the failed 2011 ordinance.

Asked what would happen if Marlow does not demolish or renovate the building next year, Fairbanks city Mayor Jerry Cleworth said he would work with the borough to get money from the state to help demolish the building.

“Hopefully, we won’t have to get to that point,” he said.

The city’s notice to Marlow was written by city building official Clem Clooten. The conditions inside the building became apparent to the city last spring when Marlow let the city use the building for cold weather exercises. Clear problems with the interior of the building, including ice/water, mold and a population of pigeons, were confirmed in an inspection, he said.

The building received its “Looking For Love Again” banner in 2011 as part of a public art project designed to draw attention and collect stories and ideas related to the vacant landmark.

Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545.

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