Former Golden Lion Hotel will become low-income housing, says Anchorage mayor

A car parked waiting for a Covid test at the former Golden Lion Hotel in Anchorage
The former Golden Lion Hotel in Anchorage at the intersection of New Seward Highway and 36th Avenue formerly served as a COVID testing site. It will soon become low-income housing. (Alaska Public Media)

The city of Anchorage is working to turn a former Midtown hotel into housing for low-income and homeless residents, Mayor Dave Bronson announced Tuesday. 

The city purchased the Golden Lion Hotel building in 2020 under acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson, and it intended to use it as a drug and alcohol misuse treatment center.

Then, in October, the Assembly approved using the Golden Lion as low-income housing.

Bronson has previously opposed using the building, but on Tuesday described the repurposing of the vacant hotel as part of the city’s effort to address homelessness.

“As we work together to make sure no one sleeps in the cold, I have directed my team to implement a plan that allows the former Golden Lion Hotel to be used in an efficient and legal manner that helps as many people as possible,” Bronson said to the Assembly Tuesday night.

Bronson’s administration and Assembly leadership have sparred over the best way to house the city’s homeless residents. They recently agreed to expand capacity at the biggest shelter, the Sullivan Arena, because of a lengthy wait list for a bed. 

But they have disagreed about what to do with the Golden Lion. The Assembly initially included it as part of a multi-tiered approach to homelessness, intending for it to be used as a substance misuse treatment center. However, Bronson has been hesitant to use the building, and it’s been left empty for much of his term as mayor, except for between October 2021 and March 2022 when it was being used as a COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment center.

Assembly member Felix Rivera chairs the Assembly’s Housing and Homelessness Committee. He said Tuesday that he’s happy to see the administration working to get more housing available. 

“I’m excited to see the administration moving forward with what the Assembly’s vision was for the Golden Lion which was to use it as housing until we can get it turned on as a substance misuse facility,” Rivera said. “I don’t ever want to leave that out.”

Rivera also expressed concern over the mayor’s estimate that it would take four to six months to have the low-income housing available. He said he believes the process could take two to four months. 

After conducting a site evaluation of the former Golden Lion, officials with the mayor’s office say they anticipate it costing $700,000 to make the building suitable for housing, though they say it could cost more because the building’s fire suppression system is not fully operational. 

A similar effort to provide low-income housing was made last year when the former Guest House hotel was converted into low-income housing after being purchased by First Presbyterian Church for $7.8 million. Part of the funds came from the Assembly, which approved a grant of $3.4 million, and the rest came from private partners, largely the Rasmuson Foundation.

a portrait of a man outside

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.

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