Contact: Jeff Clarke
Public - private partnership saves Anchorage's historic 4th Avenue Theater
Anchorage - A unique partnership that includes the Rasmuson Foundation, Wells Fargo Bank and the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) will rehabilitate and preserve Anchorage's historic 4th Avenue Theater while allowing the city to keep it open. The theater, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, will be operated by the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB) as part of its meeting and convention marketing.
That announcement was made today by Mayor Mark Begich during a news conference at the Theater. The mayor was joined by representatives of the groups involved in the partnership.
City officials have been working with the bank and the Rasmuson Foundation for several months to assemble a financing package to preserve the theater, built in 1947 by Alaskan entrepreneur Cap Lathrop.
"Through the hard work of many individuals and the generosity of the Rasmuson Foundation, we are able to save the 4th Avenue Theater," Begich said. "We can preserve a jewel in our community and continue to use it as a site for conventions, meetings and other special events in our city."
The purchase price will be $3.4 million for the property recently valued at $3.7 million. As part of the financing structure, the Rasmuson Foundation agreed to extend a low interest rate loan of $2.6 million dollars to be repaid through facility rental and other user fees. Additionally, the MOA will contribute $250,000 in already designated historic preservation funds; and the theater's owner, Robert Gottstein, will contribute $600,000 at closing.
"The 4th Avenue Theater is an Anchorage icon," said Diane Kaplan, president of the Rasmuson Foundation. "The combined strength of the proposed business plan and our belief in Anchorage's continued economic vitality convinced us to extend the loan. A loan from the Foundation is the best way for the Foundation to participate. Given the structure of the deal, debt, as opposed to a grant, is far more helpful in attracting additional tax credits. Our participation in preserving the theater is consistent with our other historic preservation activities around the state."
Because of the way the transaction is structured, an additional $1.9 million will be leveraged from federal tax credit programs that are designed to encourage renovation of historic properties. This will provide the cash needed to undertake important deferred maintenance to rehabilitate the building and preserve its historic value. As part of the deal, an historic easement will be created to protect the landmark forever.
The deal was made possible in part by owner Gottstein, who agreed to relinquish his interest in the property at a substantial discount. Wells Fargo Bank will be the tax credit investor.
In order to keep the MOA and the city's taxpayers from any financial liability, a newly created single-purpose entity called the 4th Avenue Theater, LLC, will own the facility until the debt is paid off. At that time the MOA will take title to the theater.
The theater is one of the best examples of Art Deco style in America. It was designed by famed theater architect B. Marcus Priteca, known as the "dean of American theater design." Murals in the theater depict various aspects of life on the Last Frontier.
"Many people in the community have fought hard for this project," said Mary Jane Michael, executive director of the Office of Economic and Community Development. "Our goal is to preserve this historic landmark and restore the Theater to full use by the community."
"The 4th Ave Theater will make a great addition to our event and meeting inventory in downtown Anchorage," said ACVB President Bruce Bustamante. "The history and uniqueness of the theater will be a draw for special events and compliment convention and meeting needs of the Egan Center."
A non-profit Friends of Fourth Avenue Foundation will be established to receive charitable contributions toward restoration and continued support of the Theater.
About the Foundation
The Rasmuson Foundation was created in May 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband "E.A." Rasmuson. The Foundation is a catalyst to promote a better life for all Alaskans.