Polaris Building demolition begins

A ceremony marked the official beginning to the demolition of the Polaris Building
Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 10:14 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - After years of work, a ceremony outside the Polaris Building annex marked the start of the long awaited demolition of the Polaris Building.

Community members gathered on Second Avenue as Fairbanks City Mayor, David Pruhs, spoke about the legacy of the building and all the work that’s been done to secure a demolition operation. “Hillary Clinton said in a book, it takes a village to raise a child... this took a nation to knock this building down,” Pruhs said.

“The Polaris building became a part of the city in 1952 and for decades following, it was the center of life in Fairbanks,” said Pruhs. Over time , the building has become uninhabitable requiring that it be demolished. This is a difficult task due to the large amount of carcinogens in the building. primarily asbestos. This makes the demolition difficult. However, with cooperative efforts of the city, borough, state and federal governments, both a plan and funds have been produced to remove the structure.

As part of the demolition celebration, a final christening was given to the building that was once home to many residents, including Mayor Pruhs’ parents. The building was also the home to many business. Attendees were able to tour lower levels of the building and were able to see remnants of some of the businesses that once existed. Among the remaining memories of a time long past, were markings of the Polaris Hotel operations.

Shane Burnette grew up in the building as his father operated the Polaris Hotel and he was an employee there for a time himself. “When we came in through that annex that at one time was part of the administrative offices and that’s where my dad’s office was and I remember they would bring me in and I remember taking photo copies of my hands and face,” said Burnette after touring the building. He also reminisced the many memories he had growing up in the Polaris Building. He spoke about times in high school, when he would hangout there or sometimes work. While he will never see those spaces again, Burnette spoke positively about the coming demolition and his time in the building. “I don’t feel any remorse for it. I’m thankful that the city is looking forward and that I guess that my memories aren’t clouded by the change that’s coming.”

Along with the tours, many in attendance took their turn at the beginning stages of the demolition process by hitting the outside of the annex wall with a sledge hammer. Chunks of brick blew onto the side walk and people posed for pictures and some took pieces of the wall home with them.

According to Mayor Pruhs, the city’s goal is the have the annex, which lies south of the tower, completely destroyed by May 7, 2023. There’s no official timeline for the rest of the building.