The recent article about the Anchorage Industrial Land Assessment (AILA) misrepresents the report and the availability of industrial land in Anchorage. This was one of the weakest attempts yet to revive the thankfully expiring Knik Arm Crossing project.

AILA predicts a need for 720 to 1080 acres of industrial land in Anchorage between 2010 and 2030. It acknowledges the existence of 801 acres of undeveloped industrial land and 662 acres of underutilized industrial land. This math says that we have between 383 and 743 acres of available industrial land in excess of our needs between 2010 and 2030. AILA’s own summary page (Table 1, page 3), projects an excess of land!

In addition, AILA specifically excludes the 2442 acres (see Anchorage 2020, Chapter 2, Table 2) owned by the Airport, Port and Railroad. Much of this land is vacant or underutilized. All of these owners are devoted to nurturing industrial development. Further, AILA suggests the possibility of military land expansion instead of the much more likely reduction.

AILA manages to suggest the possibility of a shortage by claiming the difficulty of developing 201 of these acres because they are in Eklutna, Chugiak and Eagle River and rejects another 401 acres because of soils limitations. But remember the recent article’s proposed solution. Which is more expensive? Land at Eklutna or land across Knik Arm? Land in the Anchorage bowl with a soils problem or land across Knik Arm? To its credit, AILA does not recommend the Knik Arm Crossing as a solution, but rather recommends the same redevelopment efforts supported here.

By ignoring Eagle River, Chugiak, Eklutna, the Airport, the Port, the Railroad, most underdeveloped land and any land with a soils limitation, AILA manages to suggest a worst case scenario shortage of 484 acres. According to Anchorage 2020, in 1998 there were 24099 developed acres of residential, commercial, and institutional land in the Anchorage bowl. Even if we ignore the better options listed in the previous sentence, converting just 2% of this land would accommodate all predicted industrial uses. The worst case scenario, created only by ignoring all of the options that would become viable should the market actually demand industrial land, amounts to 8 parcels the size of the Park Strip. For that we should construct a 2 billion dollar bridge?

We have just spent months listening to mayoral candidates talking about reducing the cost of government. Especially in Anchorage with frost, snow and darkness, the cost of government is directly related to any reduction in density. Water, sewer, electricity, police, fire, schools, everything the government does costs much more the more it is spread out. Between McHugh Creek and Eklutna, most of the infrastructure is already in place. We are already paying for it. I can’t imagine there are many taxpayers who want to start buying all those things for the properties at the other end of the proposed Knik Arm Crossing.

The City of San Francisco has an area of 232 square miles. Anchorage is 1,697 square miles.
San Francisco’s population is 744,230. Anchorage’s is 282,810. The density in San Francisco is 3,208 people per square mile. In Anchorage, it’s 167 people per square mile. Given the presence of the Presidio and Golden Gate Park, and given the typical topography in San Francisco, it is completely implausible to suggest that Anchorage is out of industrial land or any other kind of land. We need to concentrate on redeveloping and improving the land we have. This land already has most of the necessary infrastructure in place.

The AILA report was produced by a firm from Sacramento with funding from Anchorage Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) and MOA. One might ask why AEDC sent this work to California when there are a number of qualified Alaska firms. I am guessing the answer would be low bid. I think that proves my case. Industrial development across the Knik Arm will never be the low bidder without subsidies from you, me, our kids and our grandkids.

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