Polaris Building banner

The Polaris Building’s west wall is bare Monday after a banner fell off this past weekend. 

FAIRBANKS — The city of Fairbanks is $115,000 away from owning the deed of trust for the long-abandoned and condemned Polaris Building.

The Fairbanks City Council unanimously approved a resolution spending $15,000 to enter into an agreement with current deed holder James Baum of Anchorage. The agreement gives the city the option to buy the deed for an additional $115,000 within the next two years. The city appropriated $15,000 for the agreement at a previous council meeting. 

Baum is the trustee for current owner Marc Marlow, also of Anchorage. Marlow still owes Baum $225,000 on the bank note. Essentially, Fairbanks now has the option to buy Marlow’s debt from Baum at a discounted rate.

Resolution sponsor David Pruhs said Marlow “knows what we’re doing, knows why we’re doing it.”

Pruhs said the council’s action starts the process toward demolition. “We’re serious now. Will you buy the note, Mr. Marlow?” Pruhs asked an absent Marlow at Monday’s meeting. “I don’t think you will,” he concluded.

Marlow has missed multiple deadlines set by Fairbanks and has had others extended — but with Fairbanks previously lacking the means to take any action, the building has done little but deteriorate in the last 15 years. Built in 1952, the 11-story concrete structure is the tallest in town.

Fairbanks condemned the Polaris in 2012. Since then, Marlow has filed no appeals. Therefore, the city could, hypothetically, start demolition anytime — if they had the funds and a contractor.

“All appeal time frames are expired,” City attorney Paul Ewers said. 

Based on meetings with the offices of Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, Pruhs said it’s much easier for municipalities to procure federal funding for redevelopment if they control the property.

An estimated $4 million to $6 million will be required to tear down the building. Marlow previously estimated a cost of $15 million to $19 million to redevelop the structure. 

Marlow had previously received partial tax exemptions and deferrals from Fairbanks, but according to Pruhs, those would have only been enacted if he were able to redevelop the building, and he has paid taxes on the property the last 10 years.

The city previously denied a request from Marlow to waive certain permit fees. 

Contact staff writer Robin Wood at 459-7510 or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMcity