Anchorage, AK looks to revitalize its downtown with Smart Growth America

Alaksa, Anchorage. Aerial view of the city taken from a helicopter during the summer. Body of water behind is Cook Inlet.
Photo credit: Visit Anchorage PR via Flickr

After their local economy took a hard hit from the drop in oil prices, the City of Anchorage, AK reached out to Smart Growth America for help. In May 2016, SGA traveled to Anchorage to deliver a Planning for Economic and Fiscal Health Workshop. Over the course of the two-day visit, SGA met with the city’s residents to establish a strategic approach for tackling their economic challenge.

On the first day of the workshop, SGA’s Vice President for Economic Development Chris Zimmerman, and Economic Development Specialist Alex Hutchinson met with city officials for a tour of downtown Anchorage, proceeded by an in-depth discussion of the issues facing the city. SGA presented on the economic development patterns of the past 50 years, and what communities have done to leverage these trends into local successes. Anchorage city staffers followed with a presentation framing these trends into a local context, focusing specifically on their downtown. Toward the end of the workshop, participants were split into small groups to discuss and envision opportunities for Anchorage’s future. Residents and staffers agreed the city needed to anchor their revitalization efforts downtown—but where to begin?

Start by tackling four by four blocks. Among the recommended next steps, SGA suggested a district redevelopment pilot project, utilizing city-owned property as a starting point. Tied to this effort is a new redevelopment authority with staff, funding, power to issue bonds, and ability to hold property. By the end of the day, residents and city staff had successfully discussed strategies for the primary challenges facing the city and expressed excitement for the new efforts ahead.

Anchorage was one of seven communities nationwide selected to receive one of Smart Growth America’s 2016 free technical assistance workshops. Stretching from Florida to Alaska, these seven communities represent major cities, suburban centers, and rural towns alike. The program, made possible through a five-year Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Sustainable Communities, seeks to develop local planning solutions that help communities grow in ways that benefit families and businesses, while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place.

Workshop Materials:

Technical assistance