It’s been a relatively stable place for nearly a century, but change could be coming to Anchorage’s oldest neighborhood, Government Hill. A new tenant is moving into town, the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll authority, better known as KABATA.
KABATA, which is under the auspices of the Department of Transportation, is in the midst of acquiring lands around Government Hill as it attempts to build approach roads to a $700 million bridge connecting the Port of Anchorage with Port MacKenzie.
The agency acquired the Sourdough Lodge last year and two homes on nearby Harvard Street recently.
"We follow the Federal Relocation Act,” said KABATA Spokesperson Shannon McCarthy. “What that requires is that an independent appraiser comes and appraises the property, and then it's reviewed and then we actually negotiate with the property owner and if we come up an agreement, that agreement is reviewed as well."
KABATA needs more land to make room for an 800 foot tunnel beginning at Erickson Street. The tunnel will connect to an approach road that will lead to the bridge, about a mile and a half north of the neighborhood.
KABATA has its sights set on purchasing the Subway and Tesoro at the corner of Loop Road and Erickson. Residents feel those businesses make up the unofficial town square of Government Hill.
"This Subway is literally the best Subway in town,” said Autumn Sanders. “My husband and I come to this one and this one only. If they get rid of this we probably won't go to Subway anymore."
Government Hill Community Council President Stephanie Kessler says the sandwich shop does big business and even if KABATA pays for its relocation, the owner is unlikely to turn a big profit in a different part of town.
"The Subway is a thriving business in the Government Hill Community, as is the Tesoro station, but the Subway station is packed at lunch, and is packed at dinner,” said Kessler.
Critics of KABATA say gobbling up land before bridge construction gets the green light is like putting the cart before the horse. KABATA’s McCarthy counters that if her agency waits until the legislative process plays out to begin preliminary construction it will take years to build the bridge.
"The Knik Arm Crossing is a priority for the State of Alaska, so should this project get a hiccup, and get delayed six months, or a year, we still need that right-of-way to move forward with the Knik Arm Crossing," adds McCarthy.
A bill determining KABATA’s organizational make-up and how much reserve funding it is entitled to is tied up in a state senate committee. The legislation is expected to be addressed when lawmakers return to Juneau in January.