Anchorage Assembly delays vote on putting millions towards homeless navigation center

An open Parking lot with various cars in it and trees surrounding.
The area where the city plans to build a navigation center for homeless adults next to the old APD headquarters on Tudor and Elmore roads. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly has postponed a vote on spending roughly $6.2 million for a navigation center and shelter to address homelessness in the city. While the funding won’t be in front of the body until May, members did amend the project to reduce the shelter’s bed capacity from 200 to 150.

Ahead of the vote, Assembly member Felix Rivera and Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration delivered a presentation on the proposed project. Rivera said the navigation center operates differently than the Sullivan Arena, which the city has been using as a mass shelter since the start of the pandemic. 

“Compared to the Sullivan and what we have going on, this site is smaller, planned to be safer, intentionally built, more opportunities for personal space and community and meets the needs of the clients better,” Rivera said.

However, some Assembly members, including East Anchorage’s Forrest Dunbar, argued that there was a lot of new information provided at the meeting that the public didn’t have a chance to review. The navigation center would be built near the intersection of Tudor and Elmore Roads, part of Dunbar’s district.

“There are quite detailed schematics in here that we’ve never seen before that just got put online, that I doubt many people that are going to be commenting have had the chance to look at,” Dunbar said.

Almost everybody who provided public testimony on the funding also argued that residents needed more time to review the proposal. 

The navigation center and shelter is part of a slate of new projects the city hopes to bring online to combat the city’s rising homelessness issue. Also included are facilities for substance misuse treatment, workforce and supportive housing and complex care.

READ MORE: Anchorage officials and private funders agree to put $13M toward addressing homelessness crisis

The Assembly also added a caveat to the funding proposal for the navigation center requiring the Bronson administration to commit to operating the Golden Lion Hotel as an additional substance misuse center. The building was purchased by the city at the end of 2020 for that purpose but has since been used by WEKA Medical as a monoclonal antibody COVID-19 treatment facility.

The mayor’s administration estimates the construction of the navigation center will cost just under $12 million. The administration also estimates spending another $1.5 million for furnishings and equipment, though officials say they plan to solicit donations to cover that cost.

Dunbar also questioned how quickly the Assembly needed to make a decision on the funding. 

Mayor Bronson’s administration has said they want to stop using the Sullivan Arena as a homeless shelter by the end of June. However, in the presentation about the navigation center, officials estimated that the construction of the facility would end in November, which Dunbar said was news to the Assembly. 

“The necessity to push forward tonight with all this new information the public hasn’t had a chance to comment and review and get to a vote tonight, to me, seems less pressing,” Dunbar said.

While the Assembly did not vote on putting $6.2 million towards the navigation center, they did vote to reduce its bed capacity. The original proposal would’ve allowed for 200 beds, with a surge capacity of 330. It now has a capacity of 150 beds, with a surge capacity of 200.

The Assembly will re-open public testimony on the funding for the navigation center and vote on the appropriation at their next meeting on May 10.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

Previous articleAlaska House Republicans remove Eastman from caucus
Next articleAn Anchorage mosaic highlights the importance of mental wellbeing