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How old is ‘historic’ in Alaska? Um, 69

Here in the mid-Atlantic, we have Jamestown. Williamsburg. New Bern. Sir Walter Raleigh. Croatan.

These are places and figures that date back to the 1600s. From time to time, you’ll hear of someone wanting to raze a historic building or property.

Somewhat newer is Alaska, but they have historical problems, too.

There’s an old theater in Anchorage called the 4th Avenue Theatre that its owners may want to demolish.

The city’s Historic Preservation Commission in August began looking at the possibility of imposing a long-term moratorium on demolishing buildings, such as the theater, that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That process was pending when theater representatives applied for a demolition permit on Oct. 17, city attorney Bill Falsey said.

The application prompted the Anchorage Assembly to adopt a 60-day emergency moratorium Oct. 18 after Mayor Ethan Berkowitz requested it.

Just how old is the theatre, you ask? It’s, uh, 69 years old. It was built in 1947.

The 4th Avenue Theatre survived North America’s largest earthquake in 1964. More recently, it weathered another threat to its existence after voters rejected a $2 million bond proposal by the city to acquire it a decade ago when it was put on the market and faced an uncertain future.

“This serves as an opportunity to work with the property owners to ensure the 4th Avenue Theater regains its role as a centerpiece of a vibrant downtown,” Berkowitz said in an email sent to The Associated Press by his office Oct. 19.

The short pause will allow officials to decide the next step in protecting historic buildings, with the possibility of implementing such measures as including public input before demolitions are allowed to be carried out, Falsey said..

Falsey said representatives of the building owners told officials there were no imminent plans to demolish the structure. He said seeking the demolition permit was taken under a mistaken belief the process was required to carry out any enforcement actions by the city.

Falsey said he’s not aware of any enforcement actions planned by the city in connection with the building. The owners have obtained a demolition permit for another of their Anchorage properties, a long-vacant hotel that is facing enforcement actions for issues including problems with its fire-suppression system.

The 69-year-old theater was purchased for about $1.65 million by Peach Investments, owned by Joe and Maria Fang of San Francisco, at a foreclosure auction in 2009. Representatives of the Fangs did not immediately respond to telephone requests for comment.

The theater was completed in 1947, designed in the art moderne style by the architect of Hollywood’s famed Pantages Theatre, B. Marcus Priteca. Over the years, the Anchorage theater was celebrated for features such as Italian marble, fluted walnut and murals of Alaska wildlife, industries and Mount McKinley, which is now known as Denali.

– With material from The Associated Press.

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