News-Miner opinion: Again with the Polaris Building, a Fairbanks albatross by any measure.
Now, the Fairbanks City Council is suggesting the federal government help underwrite the long-running effort to demolish the abandoned building by using infrastructure funding for what may be a $10 million project. But even before the building, the city’s tallest, can be demolished, it must be decontaminated and taken down story by story because of the hazardous materials — mold and asbestos — inside.
Infrastructure funding is only the latest in a string of ideas over the years about how to rid the city of the 11-story derelict, vacant since 2002. The city has owned the 69-year-old structure since 2018, after the Fairbanks North Star Borough foreclosed on it for nonpayment of property taxes. The city took possession of the structure by using $36,332 in donations to pay off its tax bill. It had been hoped the Polaris could be used as a convention center.
Only last month, city officials were considering putting the demolition project out for bids from private companies. The company chosen for the three-year job would post a $2 million bond with the city and take over the demolition and eventually assume ownership of the property.
Then, there is the idea from the Downtown Association of Fairbanks. It wants to use $1 million of Covid-19 stimulus grant money from the city’s $5 million share of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to begin the project by knocking down the one-story Polaris annex.
The city even has offered the Polaris up to the Defense Department for use in a possible military training exercise where things get broken.
Despite all that, the behemoth remains resolutely and firmly planted in downtown Fairbanks, a self-inflicted wound.
There are, of course, concerns about each of the demolition options. If the job is given to private interests, will they finish the job, or will the city get stuck with a bigger problem? Will the federal government even go along with picking up the tab for the demolition? What happens when the dust clears?
Count us among those who, after years of waiting, want something done to remove the towering eyesore — and sooner would be better than later.
Let’s pick a plan and get it done.