Monday, June 30, 2014
I was downtown today and just thought I'd snap a pic of the new façade going up on the western side of the Alaska Legislature building on 4th Avenue. This is the culmination after years in which the legislature looked around for a new place to do business. Eventually they settled on staying in their current digs but not without an extensive remodel. Originally the Interstate Bank building when it opened in the 1970s, the original façade had no windows. Later on some windows were punctured through, but they appeared more like peep-holes in the overwhelming concrete wall. In addition to the current remodel of the six story high-rise, the former Empress Theater next door was demolished so as to expand the footprint of the tower. Not many people realize that the Empress Theater building still existed for its original façade was replaced when the theater gave way to becoming a bank. Mark Pfeffer, the developer overseeing the project, wants to utilize a piece of the old theater in the remodeled building. LaBomba Shelter blog has great coverage on the fate and history of the old Empress Theater. I encourage you to check it out.
I suspect that the reason the original façade had no windows was because the developers of the building assumed that it would not be long before their new high-rise would be sandwiched between two other buildings of good height. With high-rises sprouting allover in late 60s/early 70s downtown (and midtown), it was inevitable, they may have reasoned, that high-rises would show up on 4th Avenue. In a way, this is kind of sad for the new glass curtain gives nod to the fact that any building of measureable height will not be built on the neighboring parking lot. I'm not saying I necessarily want high-rises, I think they're out of scale for 4th Avenue. But any building on that parking lot would be nice. Way back in the day, a three story building sat on the site of the present day parking lot.
While I'm at it, here's a look at another pipeline era building that recently got a face lift. Built in the 1970s, 909 Ninth Avenue once housed Union, then Unocal, and then Chevron in the later 2000s before being restored to host its new main tenant, NANA Corporation. I was most especially happy to see the building stripped of its gold tinted windows. Interestingly, the state legislature was looking at this building as a possible site for re-location before the deal fell through