News-Miner opinion: Knock it down.
That’s the prevailing view of what needs to be done with the languishing 11-story Polaris Building in Downtown Fairbanks.
And it’s a great — and long overdue — idea. The building is an eyesore, has been vacant for 17 years, contains hazardous material and is a health and safety risk, according to the city. It needs to go.
Unfortunately, making it go away by demolition will cost millions of dollars. At a cost of $10 million, demolition is beyond the financial ability of the city of Fairbanks to pay for it.
The city, in case you were wondering, owns the towering hulk. It obtained it from the Fairbanks North Star Borough in 2018 after the borough foreclosed on it for nonpayment of $36,332 in property taxes by the owner, Mark Marlow of Anchorage. The money to pay off the tax bill was raised through donations from individuals, businesses and organizations, the largest donor of which was Explore Fairbanks.
There’s plenty of ideas about what to build on that lot once the Polaris is gone. Explore Fairbanks, the nonprofit tourism promotion agency that markets Fairbanks, hopes to encourage a convention center to be built on the site and has a good amount of support for the idea.
Or perhaps the site could be used for more housing, especially some sort of housing for seniors, or developed into a business center. Or all of the above.
But the Polaris has to go away first.
And the U.S. military might just be the answer to that. The military has lots of experience at demolishing things.
To that end, city officials recently submitted a Polaris Building Demolition Project to the Innovative Readiness Training program of the Department of Defense. If approved, the Defense Department could provide the manpower and resources to rid us of the Polaris.
The city’s Polaris Work Group has met with Sen. Lisa Murkowski and her staffers many times, and it was during those meetings that Sen. Murkowski brought up the Innovative Readiness Training.
A decision won’t come for some time, however. The Defense Department won’t choose projects until July. Work on projects wouldn’t start until April 2022.
Even so, that’s something to look forward to.