Housing is a powerful downtown revitalizer, but might not suffice in Anchorage, Alaska

As readers of the Resilience Success Guide know, housing—especially of the affordable variety—is often the single most essential tactic in revitalizing a depopulated downtown.

But those readers also know that revitalization seldom results from mere projects. Like everything else that needs to be produced—whether cars, crops, or cribs—a reliable process is needed, one that integrates all the essential factors into an ongoing effort.

In Anchorage, Alaska, former two-term state representative Allen Kemplen is vice president of the Fairview Community Council, a former member of the Urban Design Commission, and a longtime supporter of the livable winter cities movement. He wrote an Op-Ed in the March 6, 2018 issue of the Anchorage Daily News. Here’s a brief excerpt:

The vitality of Anchorage’s downtown area is a recent topic of civic discussion. Andrew Halcro, executive director of the Anchorage Community Development Authority, says that things are about to change for the better. Halcro says new housing, including mixed-use construction in the downtown area, will turn things around by putting people on the evening streets.

Will the projects touted by Halcro indeed lead to greater vitality downtown? They do represent new investment, so that is progress. But are the returns on this investment sufficient?

I submit the new housing initiatives will not by themselves restore the vitality of the downtown area. In fact, I assert there is a significant risk that such investment could turn sour, with permanent negative ramifications for the future prosperity of the downtown area.

What justifies such a statement and why advance a downbeat view of this obvious progress? The municipality and community leaders in general have not come to grips with the structural issues that hold back the wheels of progress for the downtown area.

What are these structural issues? There are at least four:

  1. Outmoded concept of our “downtown” area.
  2. An urban core sliced apart by inter-regional traffic.
  3. Woeful lack of good winter-city design.
  4. The institutional support for a social services slum.

Photo of Anchorage via Adobe Stock.

See Kemplen’s full Op-Ed in the Anchorage Daily News.

You must be logged in to post a comment