Benches, Signs, and Flower Pots: Recommendations from the Project Anchorage Task Force

Mar 1, 2023 | Architecture, Government, News

Anchorage 6th Avenue

carter damaska | alaska business

Add benches and planters to Downtown Anchorage. Infill flat parking lots. Restore indigenous place names. These recommendations are the result of work by the Project Anchorage Task Force, formed by Mayor Dave Bronson to devise strategies to make the city more attractive to visitors, businesses, and residents.

Secret Shopper Suggestions

The task force organized its final report into major categories, such as improving store fronts, improving Peratrovich Park on Fourth Avenue, improving trail signage and wayfinding, activating public spaces, turning one-way streets to two-way streets, and reinvigorating the slogan “Big Wild Life.”

The task force is a direct response to a report presented last year by consulting firm Roger Brooks International, which involved “secret shoppers” evaluating the city as a place to visit or live. The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation (AEDC), which contributed to the task force, produced its own response in the form of the Choose Anchorage campaign.

“I want to thank the members of the Project Anchorage Task Force for helping to improve our great city and move it into a bright future,” says Bronson. “Utilizing the great work done by AEDC consultant Roger Brooks, who conducted an in-depth survey of how our city does from the perspective of an investor, visitor, and citizen, the taskforce was able to provide valuable community input to enhance Anchorage’s economy and livability in the years to come.”

The mayor says the final recommendations presented by the Project Anchorage Task Force reflect a collaborative and constructive approach and provide clear, succinct, and achievable policies.

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The top-ranked suggestions include adding benches and planters to Downtown sidewalks, improving store fronts, and infill development for surface parking lots. To begin addressing the parking lot issue, the Anchorage Assembly in November eliminated the requirement in city code for a minimum number of parking spaces for each building. The critical actions for improving store fronts include changing code to limit temporary vinyl signs and enabling sidewalk or curbside dining.

Other mayoral actions ranked as critical priorities are enhanced police enforcement in Peratrovich Park, establishing a citywide pedestrian trail wayfinding system, and appointing a committee to rename Frontierland, a pocket playground just off the Delaney Park Strip. A more ambitious priority would have the city reacquire control of Fifth and Sixth Avenues, now treated as state roads, and convert them and their one-way cross streets into two-way streets with angled parking.

A longer-term goal, based on the secret shopper suggestions, is to better define Anchorage’s districts, using consistent terminology to refer to each neighborhood and its boundaries.

Low-Hanging Fruit

Project Anchorage list

The top five ranked suggestions in the Project Anchorage Task Force report.

Municipality of Anchorage

The task force acknowledges some trade-offs. For instance, benches can make Downtown seem more welcoming, but existing benches tend to invite loitering instead. Converting parking lots into higher-value developments might frustrate drivers looking for a place to park. And turning one-way streets into two-way streets is complex and would likely have low public support.

Bronson has directed his administration to work with the Anchorage Assembly and with key stakeholders in the public and private sectors on the Project Anchorage Taskforce recommendations to attract talent, increase business investment, and enhance the quality of life here in Anchorage.

The Project Anchorage Task Force which was made up of business, civic, and community leaders from the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, Anchorage Downtown Partnership, AEDC, Visit Anchorage, Anchorage Park Foundation, Alaska Hospitality Retailers, Anchorage Assembly, Eklutna, Inc., Girdwood Chamber of Commerce, Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce, and the Anchorage Community Development Authority.

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