Anchorage Businesses Partner to Transform Downtown District Through Design Thinking
Area near Anchorage Museum declared “Anchorage Design District”
Friendly design approaches to sidewalks, lighting, facades, pedestrians and parking and community events benefit a winter city. Image courtesy of the Anchorage Museum.
Credit: Anchorage Museum
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—Local businesses are partnering with city government and Alaska’s largest museum to use design to face-off with Anchorage’s big-city problems. “Safe, vital, friendly cities don’t just happen,” says Anchorage Museum Director Julie Decker, “they are planned, and they develop through cooperation and solution-focused thinking, which is a hallmark of professional design practice.”
Downtown Anchorage, between 5th and 7th Avenues and A and C Streets was recently designated as the Anchorage Design District, a collaboration between the Municipality of Anchorage, the Anchorage Community Development Authority, the Anchorage Museum and private property owners. This declaration by the city and its partners demonstrates an investment in the creative economy and community while highlighting diversity and innovation.
Credit: Anchorage Museum
Anchorage Design District encompasses the area between 5th and 7th Avenues and A to C Streets. Image courtesy of the Anchorage Museum.
Why design? “Design is about applying a method for solving difficult problems and a conscious effort to apply meaningful order across a range of ideas,” says Decker. “Inherent in the design process is a collaboration of diverse individuals gathering and working together to share cultures and aspirations in a climate of mutual trust and understanding. In this way, design promotes tolerance, communication, cooperation and respect.”
The idea behind forming a design district is that it brings together the perspectives of business, science, technology and the humanities, which can inform architects and urban planners as they address multiple human concerns. The Design District will be a collaborative investment of ideas and resources.
“Winter” cities like Anchorage especially benefit from design thinking. Northern/Arctic communities face distinct challenges inherent in their geography. Remoteness and climate, for example, exacerbate issues that plague most cities: how to prevent urban blight, improve public safety, provide adequate parking, encourage inclusiveness and engender a sense of community.
The Anchorage Design District will be both conceptual and real, developing from a framework for programming and activity, to a comprehensive approach that eventually defines and celebrates Anchorage as a flourishing urban center with progressive design and good living.
Credit: Anchorage Museum
Left to right: Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, Anchorage Museum Director and CEO Julie Decker and Anchorage Community Development Authority Executive Director Andrew Halcro at the Anchorage Museum when the Anchorage Design District was announced, March 2, 2018. Image courtesy of the Anchorage Museum.
Anchorage Design District Partners
- The Anchorage Museum serves as the lead and the anchor cultural institution in the District and supports the effort on an ongoing basis, contributing staff time, design services, and programming in the form of residencies, events and community opportunities in the District.
- The Anchorage Community Development Authority, the District’s other anchor, supports and advances ideas that realize community vision in an economically viable and sustainable way.
- The Alaska Design House, Degrees North Studio and The Jules bed and breakfast add to the creative economy in the District and are a key part of planning and programming. A steering committee made up of the District’s property owners and anchor organizations guides efforts to create a vibrant segment of downtown.
The Municipality of Anchorage supports the District in advocating for exceptional design and safety and in communicating and collaborating with the steering committee and District anchors regarding needs for District development, community engagement and special events.
The Design District will develop over time through sustained investment, collaboration, the organization of events, distinct and targeted efforts, and with the intent to change and grow with the community.
- March 2018 - Official designation of the Design District by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz
- April 2018 - Design residency with Lateral North
- May 2018 - Connections between the Anchorage Museum and Anchorage Community Development Authority along C Street
- Summer 2018 - Connections between the Museum’s Lunch on the Lawn and B Street, Alaska Design Studio and design residency development, initial signage in the District and the beginning of branding elements
- September 2018 - Design Week Anchorage
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