default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
|
||
Logout|My Dashboard

The vision is economic: Changes till downtown ground

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Saturday, November 7, 2009 11:11 pm | Updated: 12:52 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

The reasons to make downtown revitalization a community priority start with economic development and end with a better life for all of us in the Interior.

What you want

In developing the Vision Fairbanks Downtown Plan, Fairbanksans chose their top five attributes for our downtown: more retail catering to locals; make it clean and safe; create parks and trails; improve parking access and supply; improve bike/pedestrian circulation. It’s not a visionary list. It’s actually pretty ordinary.

What put the “vision” in Vision Fairbanks are the steps it takes to earn these ordinary outcomes. The Vision Fairbanks implementation strategy is no weakling list of minor tweaks for marginal and ephemeral gain. It is a bold list of tried-and-true “structural changes” to till the ground for economic development and a revitalized downtown.

How to revitalize?

The basic idea is to make the downtown good for people. Make it good for people and — we can argue chicken and egg all day long — people come and businesses follow, or businesses come and people follow to the downtown made good for people (see list of 5 above). Market forces and the private sector will drive revitalization — which is also to say the public sector has a unique role to play, especially in the early stages with those elements solely the domain of government. Like roads.

The first structural change is to revise traffic circulation and improve downtown infrastructure. Without the right infrastructure, a gold mine isn’t viable. Downtown needs the right infrastructure, too. Two-way traffic, wider sidewalks, and on-street parking ease commerce by increasing convenient parking, making pedestrians feel safer behind a buffer of parked cars on a wider sidewalk that retailers will be glad to have fronting their business!

The expectation has been to revise Cushman and Barnette streets to two-way traffic. However, the local road planning authority decided to span the Chena River with one-way bridges on these streets. City engineers, whose job it is to build two-way traffic into the one-way bridges, are seeking a second opinion from consultants about whether it will work. The fate of the state money devoted to investing in downtown infrastructure will be influenced by the City Council and determined by the Fairbanks Metropolitan Area Transportation System later this year. We Fairbanksans must not miss a chance to improve downtown’s infrastructure.

The second step in making the downtown good for people is to create ground rules that protect the investment environment. A new zone type, the City Center District, will encourage “a compact, pedestrian-oriented town center consisting of a high-intensity employment center, vibrant ... mixed use areas ... a broad range of housing types for an array of housing needs; an ... attractive and memorable destination for visitors and residents; and ... high-quality urban design.” The City Center District will go to the Planning Commission before year end.

That’s great, you say, but downtown needs more than good infrastructure and ground rules. What about the problems of high construction costs, parking, and chronic inebriates? If the known, persistent problems haven’t been solved yet, structural changes — bold new approaches — can open new possibilities. The important thing is that Fairbanks has a policy framework for downtown to accommodate the many complementary initiatives it will take to revitalize downtown.

Challenges

Several years ago, Fairbanksans argued whether or not we needed to invest in our downtown. Now we’re arguing over which way is best and what should come first — so we’re getting somewhere! The greatest challenges today are challenges of attitude and errors of scale. The attitude says that downtown is an indistinct part of the city with needs identical to the rest of the city — and fails to see downtown’s potential to transform our community and our region. The error of scale mistakes a tweak for a game-changer, mistakes fresh trim paint for a traffic revision, mistakes the level of effort required to achieve decisive, lasting improvement downtown.

Why downtown?

What is the leading downtown north of the Alaska Range? Does it have attributes that a corporation would see as a plus for locating their headquarters? Does it have the attributes that a talented, prosperous work force finds desirable? Are your children or grandchildren that work force? Are you proud of your downtown?

Downtown is already Fairbanks’ “living room,” a seat of many signature events, site of our genuine pioneer history and showroom of our community character. Downtown can be even better. Great downtowns don’t just happen. But if we work in unison, the sum of a rather ordinary list can build a downtown that is truly extraordinary.

David van den Berg is the executive director of the Downtown Association of Fairbanks, an association of downtown professionals and retailers that partners with the city of Fairbanks and the Fairbanks North Star Borough in economic development downtown.

Advertisement

Wes Madden 2014 Ad #2 Fairbanks

Description

Stanley Nissan Service

Stanley Nissan service

www.walkerforalaska.com

Bill Walker, candidate for governor, was born in Fairbanks before statehood. ...

www.walkerforalaska.com

Fairbanks born candidate for governor, Bill Walker asks, "Is Fairbanks better...

Find Yourself

You're ready for something new. New challenges, new places, new adventures. E...

Guidelines

The Daily News-Miner encourages residents to make themselves heard through the Opinion pages. Readers' letters and columns also appear online at newsminer.com. Contact the editor with questions at letters@newsminer.com or call 459-7574.

Community Perspective

Send Community Perspective submissions by mail (P.O. Box 70710, Fairbanks AK 99707) or via email (letters@newsminer.com). Submissions must be 500 to 750 words. Columns are welcome on a wide range of issues and should be well-written and well-researched with attribution of sources. Include a full name, email address, daytime telephone number and headshot photograph suitable for publication (email jpg or tiff files at 150 dpi.) You may also schedule a photo to be taken at the News-Miner office. The News-Miner reserves the right to edit submissions or to reject those of poor quality or taste without consulting the writer.

Letters to the editor

Send letters to the editor by mail (P.O. Box 70710, Fairbanks AK 99707), by fax (907-452-7917) or via email (letters@newsminer.com). Writers are limited to one letter every 30 days. All letters must contain no more than 350 words and include a full name (no abbreviation), daytime and evening phone numbers and physical address. (If no phone, then provide a mailing address or email address.) The Daily News-Miner reserves the right to edit or reject letters without consulting the writer.