Serving as the central business district for a sprawling city that’s home to roughly 40 percent of Alaska’s population, downtown Anchorage is dense, compact, filled with attractions, and notably in need of a good shot in the arm.
With no new construction within downtown Anchorage over the past decade, there are hopes that the dramatic transformation of a nearly 50-year-old mid-rise office tower into a landmark building with a sleek, glacial form will help catalyze further new development and reinvigorate the city’s increasingly sleepy urban core.
Headed by a design team from Perkins&Will’s Seattle studio, the metamorphic $30 million expansion and modernization project centers around the old nine-story Key Bank Plaza building at 601 5th Avenue. Debuting as the Alaska Mutual Savings Bank in 1972, the precast concrete-panel-clad building—although never the city’s tallest—was a notable addition to Anchorage’s modest-but-growing skyline. On November 30, 2018, the aging modernist office building suffered significant damage during a 7.1-magnitude earthquake and was shuttered to undergo seismic reinforcements and structural reinforcements. The building did reopen following the quake although the last remaining tenant, Key Bank, departed nearly a year later due to safety concerns raised by the owner at which point 601 5th Avenue became the only commercial structure in Anchorage to be fully vacated due to damage sustained from the 2018 quake.
Instead of reopening the newly fortified building as-is, Anchorage-based real estate developer Peach Investments opted to treat the building to “an external transformation that pays homage to Alaska’s natural wonders,” per a press release from Perkins&Will.
Notably, the building’s existing cladding will be completely dismantled and replaced with a 40,000-square-foot sloped glass curtain wall facade that will give it an angular, glacier-esque appearance and allow abundant natural light to flood into its previously dim interiors. In addition to the exterior overhaul, the Perkins&Will team—led by principal and design director Erik Mott with principal Brad Hinthorne, senior project designer Bill Xu, and designers Kirk Malanchuk and Louis Peiser—have envisioned the building’s revamped interior as being “an innovative office environment that embraces connectivity to Alaska’s natural world.” A host of interior improvements are planned including new mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems along with a new stair tower and elevators.
The expansive makeover also entails landscaping and hardscaping improvements around the building, which is in proximity to a number of downtown draws including the Alaska Center for Performing Arts and the William A. Egan Convention Center.
“We are excited to breathe new life into the former Key Bank Plaza building, which was one of approximately 750 buildings damaged by the 2018 Anchorage earthquake,” said Mott in a statement. “The repositioning will not only provide modern amenities to future tenants but will also serve to revitalize downtown Anchorage.”
Construction kicked off last fall and is expected to be completed in early 2022. The renovation of 601 5th Avenue is the first phase of a larger redevelopment scheme that Peach Investments has planned for the block.