Deal OKs land for new Fairbanks medical center

Fairbanks, Alaska (AP) March 2010

A land deal with the city of Fairbanks will allow a $75 million medical center project for Natives and American Indians to move forward.

The Tanana Chiefs Conference agreed last week to buy 9.5 acres near the Big Dipper Ice Arena for its new Chief Andrew Isaac Medical Center, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The new hospital will allow more services for Alaska Natives and American Indians, such as radiology and physical therapy, conference health director Victor Joseph said.

The proposed new facility would be 100,000 square feet, more than four times larger than the current center.

“We’ve been outgrowing the space,” conference President Jerry Isaac said. “We need extra space to do things and are limited. With the new site, that bottleneck situation goes away.”

Once the facility is built, the conference will enter into a decades-long lease agreement with Indian Health Services’ Joint Venture Construction Program, which will provide money for staffing. An estimated 100 employees would be needed.

The land sale was the biggest hurdle for the conference to receive the Joint Venture Construction grant, though rezoning and replatting work remain.

“There’s always a process you’ve got to go through,” Isaac said. “It’s just that a big headache of not knowing if we have it or don’t has been removed.”

The Fairbanks City Council last week approved the sale of 5 acres of its land and 4.5 acres of land it had given to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital in exchange for slightly more than $1.5 million.

The city earlier had sought a land exchange, but Pat Smith, Fairbanks’ property management director, said the city’s primary goal was making sure the conference had the land for the center.

“We don’t want to hold up this valuable project,” he said.

Construction for the center will be funded through bonds, Joseph said.