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From project 80s to the present: resurgence of construction in Anchorage recalls earlier time.


Back in the early 1980s, Alaska underwent a building boom, funded by oil royalties gleaned from the newly constructed trans-Alaska oil pipeline. As millions of dollars poured into communities, much of that money went toward improving the state's infrastructure. This was especially true in Anchorage, where new buildings-including the Egan Civic and Convention Center, the Performing Arts Center, Sullivan Arena and Z.J. Loussac Library-began rising from the dirt to forever change the city skyline.

This building boom, known as Project '80s, helped to revitalize a construction industry suffering from the completion of the pipeline. During its heyday, the pipeline employed more than 30,000 construction workers; when the project was completed, only a third of the work force remained. Once the oil started flowing through the pipeline, however, construction took off again as the state got its share of oil profits.

Though many of the projects built during the early '80s were publicly financed, such as a $23 million expansion of the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the private sector spent large sums of money as well. Before the boom ended in 1986 as a result of falling oil prices, the Frontier Building, Arco Tower (now ConocoPhillips) and the Hunt Office Building (now the Atwood Building) were taking shape.

"In the 1980s, we saw construction creep towards midtown and south town, and the development of most open areas," said Dick Cattanach, executive director, Associated General Contractors of Alaska. "The difference between construction in the '80s and the construction we're seeing in Anchorage today is that there are not a lot of large plots of land left to develop; we're building up and not out.

"Another major difference is that Project 80s largely used public money for construction, and today's projects are funded through other sources," he continued. "For example, when the Egan Convention Center was built in the 1980s, the state paid for everything out of surplus petroleum dollars. The new convention center is being paid for by an issuance of bond; the citizens of Anchorage will be responsible through a revenue tax increase on bed taxes."

Other factors have changed over the years as well. In the 1970s and '80s, the Alaska construction industry went through a number of upheavals, ranging from the building and completion of the Alaska pipeline, to the massive drop in the price of oil, to the grounding of the Exxon Valdez, which provided a boost to the state's stagnant economy. Today's construction industry is much more stable, showing steady job growth for the past 15 years.


This steady growth can be seen in projects all over Anchorage, including a number of buildings taking shape downtown. These include:


The Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center, which broke ground in April 2006, is expected to be completed in fall of 2008 and cost approximately $107.6 million. When completed, the Center will be 210,000 square feet and 102 feet tall. A project of the Alaska Center for Convention and Trade LLC, the Center will feature a 25,000-square-foot ballroom, a 50,000-square-foot exhibit hall and more than 10,000 square feet of meeting rooms. The Convention Center is designed by RIM Architects and LMN Architects, and Neeser Construction is the general contractor.



In November 2006, ground was broken for the Linny Pacillo Parking Center, which will add 836 new parking spots to downtown Anchorage, as well as more than 12,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. The nine-story, 32,546-square-foot garage is expected to be completed in September 2008. Owned by the Anchorage Center for Convention and Trade, the design/build project was awarded to Davis Constructors and Engineers Inc. and kpb Architects (Koonce Pfeffer Bettis Inc.)

In 2006, a $1.6 million renovation project began at the 600-space JC Penney garage, which will include new paint, lighting, safer elevators and increased security. The garage is managed and operated by the Anchorage Community Development Authority operating under a lease from JC Penney.



In July 2006, Davis Constructors and Engineers Inc. began work on the 14-story JL Office Tower in midtown, which is expected to cost approximately $60 million. The 300,000-square-foot building, designed by RIM Architects, is the first privately owned LEED-certified building in state. Once completed in April 2008, the building, which is owned by JL Properties Inc. (Jonathan Rubini and Leonard Hyde), Chugach Alaska and Reef Alaska Tower, will become the headquarters for Chugach Alaska.



Neeser Construction is currently building a 14-story, mixed-use building in midtown at 188 W. Northern Lights Boulevard. Designed by Charles Bettis-worth and Company Inc., the building will feature 120,000 square feet of Class A office space, with 20,000 square feet of ground floor retail.



In June 2004, Alcan General Inc. began work on the $116 million expansion of the Anchorage Museum of History and Art. The expansion will add an additional 70,000 square feet of exhibit and archival space to the building, which is expected to be completed in 2009/2010. Designed by Architect David Chipperfield of Kumin and Associates, the newly expanded museum will include an Imaginarium, Arctic Studies Center, Young Learners Discovery Gallery, new art galleries, and a new shop and cafe.


Construction is booming outside downtown Anchorage as well. Project that have broken ground in the past year include:


In September 2006, ground was broken for the University of Alaska's $87 million Integrated Science Center. A joint venture of designers ZGF of Seattle and ECI/Hyer of Anchorage, the 120,000-square-foot, three-story building will contain classrooms, administration offices, 24 interdisciplinary labs and a planetarium, and is expected to be completed in fall of 2009. Cornerstone Construction Company is the project's construction manager-at-risk.



In May 2007, Cook Inlet Region Inc. (CIRI) broke ground on the $100 million Tikahtnu Commons retail and entertainment center located in northeast Anchorage at the intersection of Glenn Highway and Muldoon Road. The project's first phase, which will include a 172,000-square-foot Target store, will open in 2008, with the entire project expected to take between five and seven years to complete. Tikahtnu Commons will contain 12 to 15 large stores and 60 to 75 small retail stores and restaurants.



A 172,000-square-foot Target store will act as one of the anchors of Tikahtnu Commons. Designed by architect Mulvanny G2 Architecture and RIM Architects, the building is expected to be completed in April of 2008. Davis Constructors is the general contractor.


As part of a multi-year expansion started in 2005, the Port of Anchorage will be adding more than 21 acres of land to its facility in 2007, adding 9,500 linear feet of rail, and improving access and vehicle and pedestrian movement throughout the Port. Improvements to Tidewater Road include moving all above-ground utilities underground, eliminating drainage problems, adding turning lanes, making road improvements, and constructing pedestrian sidewalks. Projects also include the construction of approximately 15 additional acres with dry barge and wet barge berths, and the development of 8.6 additional acres in the Port's south backlands. The Port also plans to expand the four-mile Haul Road, expand the North End Borrow, and construct a $1.5 million Port Security Command and Control Center. All of these projects are led by the project management team of Integrated Concepts and Research Corp., (ICRC) which is overseen by the U.S. Maritime Administration.
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Comment:From project 80s to the present: resurgence of construction in Anchorage recalls earlier time.
Author:Orr, Vanessa
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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