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NARA officials began the process of securing a new facility for documents in Alaska in 1998, making the project one of their top priorities, according to federal officials.
That same year, Stevens — who at the time was chairman of the Appropriations Committee — and local officials began working on what city officials dubbed the “Midtown Commons” project, which was a redevelopment plan for a largely unused area of Anchorage.
As part of that plan, officials proposed having the federal government purchase a piece of undeveloped land owned by a group of retired schoolteachers through their company, the 40th Street Investors, for use as the new archives facility. The spot made some sense: It was an undeveloped area that could be bought as opposed to leased and was located near a public library that serves as an archival facility for many historical documents.
To begin the process of securing land for a new facility, Stevens set aside $875,000 for a site selection study and in 1999 he set aside another $900,000 for additional studies, according to Rick Judson, who oversaw the project for NARA.
But despite NARA’s stated need for expanded space and local support for the selection of the site, neither NARA nor Stevens’ office ever contacted the 40th Street Investors or their real estate agent, according to a source involved in the issue at the time who asked not to be identified. Congressional interest in the project appears to have dropped off almost completely for the next few years until around the time Stevens’ business partners agreed to purchase the property in 2002.
On May 21, 2002, Hyde, Rubini and the 40th Street Investors entered into an “Agreement to Purchase” the site, according to a timeline of the purchase that Hyde provided to Roll Call. On June 19 of that year, Hyde and Rubini formally incorporated Eagle River Center LLC and transferred interest in the agreement to that company.
On July 11, 2002, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Treasury and General Government passed by voice vote a fiscal 2003 spending measure that included a $3.75 million earmark for NARA to purchase property for a new facility in Anchorage.
In 2003, at the urging of NARA staff who indicated additional funding would be needed, Stevens inserted in the fiscal 2004 Treasury spending bill an additional $2.25 million.
At the beginning of May 2003, the GSA released a request for bids, which according to Hyde’s timeline Eagle River Center responded to on May 5, despite the fact they would not formally close on the property with the 40th Street Investors until June. Then, on June 2, 2003, according to state land records, Eagle River closed on the properties, paying the retired teachers some $1.5 million for the 8-acre parcel.
On Jan. 21, 2004, the GSA informed Eagle River that it had selected its property for the new NARA location, and negotiations on the final price began.
By March 1 of that year, Hyde and Rubini had entered into an agreement with the GSA to sell the property to the federal government for $3.5 million on June 8, 2004 — putting the closing on the sale just past the one-year trigger date for avoiding what would have been a significant capital gains tax hit.