Downtown Association of Fairbanks – Fairbanks Alaska


Despite the best efforts of the Alaska Department of Transportation, road construction often still has a negative impact on neighborhood businesses. Downtown bars and eateries are no different when faced with months of construction through the Illinois Street Reconstruction Project. Downtown Association staff recently visited with business owners who are feeling the effects, and talked about how they plan to adapt and make it through the summer.


Julia’s Solstice Cafe is a vegan/vegetarian cafe sourcing local and organic ingredients. It’s on Driveway Street and currently tucked behind piles of dirt, dump trucks, and large yellow backhoes.

Luckily for Julia Quist, Owner, her clientele is a dedicated and determined bunch with few options elsewhere in the city for the quality of vegan and vegetarian dining that she offers. Julia expressed her gratitude for these regulars but reported that business has dropped by about one-third since construction began.

Julia is looking for ways to adapt to the new conditions.

“We just try to give special, personalized attention to those who do come here,” Julia said of her staff’s approach. “We try to respond to customer wants and reward them for their effort.”

On Tuesday morning, she switched out the soup du jour after just one customer request for a favorite flavor. She’s serving meals more quickly to factor in the detour so customers can return to work within the lunch hour. Julia hopes to vamp up special orders and cafe bookings for private parties. On Monday, the Fairbanks First Cafe Club will meet at Julia’s at 9:00AM for coffee and networking- a day on which the cafe is usually closed. Watch for spontaneous events posted to the Facebook page of Julia’s Solstice Cafe.

Julia has been talking with neighboring business owner John Jackovich of The Big I Pub & Lounge about collaborating on summertime events and getting creative with customer outreach.

Julia is looking forward to the amenities she will enjoy upon the project’s completion. She praises the construction team for being extremely accommodating and David Hetman, the DOT Project Engineer, who stops into the cafe frequently to ask if there’s anything more he can do.

“I’m not unhappy about this—we knew it was coming and it’s going to be a very nice thing when it’s over. We’ve had ample warning,” Julia shares. “If this has to happen, it couldn’t happen in a better way.”

As if on cue, a woman in a yellow-and-orange construction vest climbed the ramp into the cafe on Tuesday morning (Julia’s birthday) in pursuit of fresh-roasted Diving Duck coffee.


John Jackovich, owner of The Big I Pub & Lounge, has a firecracker personality that transmits over the phone with a friendly intensity. When asked to comment on Tuesday, he had plenty to say regarding the Illinois St. Project.

“There’s no doubt that road construction is a deterrent to pull right in (to the parking lot),” John says of his bar, located at the nexus of Cushman Street, Illinois Street, and the future Barnette Street extension.

Regardless, John says he tries to think of long-term improvements that will help his business in the future and dream up creative schemes to get folks through the door in the meantime.

“I’m more than tickled at the work they’re doing and how fast they’re getting it done,” John reports. He expects construction to have cleared out from in front of The Big I by October. “I’m so excited. When it’s all said and done—this location should be pretty special and interesting.”

His customers may have to deal with limited parking in the near future, but John says locals are still turning out and his staff is quick to give instructions to anyone who calls and needs help navigating the detour. The easiest path to the Big I follows the same route as to Julia’s, via Phillips Field Road and Driveway Street.

Known for its parties, The Big I isn’t letting the road construction slow it down this summer. John has booked DJ Ben Jammin’ to spin dance music on Thursdays at 9PM for the foreseeable future and Burnt Orange (house band) will play a series of Cinco de Mayo weekend shows this Friday and Saturday night. In June, you can expect a lineup of outdoor events including Midnight Sun Madness Fight Night on Sunday, June 24th (the day of the 2012 Midnight Sun Festival).

John’s not about to let the longest-lasting on-site bar in Fairbanks history be put off by a little summer road construction.

How can you help? Drink more beer. And bring friends.


The drive-thru business model of the bright yellow coffee stand on Illinois Street just north of Denali State Bank (one of seven across Fairbanks and North Pole) is meant to allow for a fast coffee fix in the morning or at lunch, but closing a lane of traffic has drastically reduced vehicle traffic through the corridor on which the stand depends.

“With the traffic volume cut in half, it’s dramatically impacted our business,” Doug Whorton, General Manager, says of the Illinois Street branch. “We’re looking at adjusting hours and the number of staff we have to help out.”

Doug has rolled out extra radio promotions for the downtown branch, and shifts large pickup orders to the stand whenever possible and convenient for the customer. Sunrise is able to prepare a selection of their breakfast sandwiches, burritos, and pastries for an entire office if customers call in advance at 347-0208.

Doug has signed up Sunrise to participate in Clean Up Day and is donating coupons to the effort to encourage folks who are northbound through downtown Fairbanks to stop in to Sunrise Bagel & Espresso. For Cinco de Mayo, the stands are trying out a fancy new drink called horchata that mimics a Mexican specialty made with cinnamon and chocolate.

“We’re just going to try to outlast the construction,” Doug says of his outlook on the summer. If the stand isn’t able to break even, he may have to temporarily close its drive-thru windows.


Wondering how best to navigate the detours and support these great businesses? Click here for advice from David, Executive Director of the Downtown Association. For complete project details, visit the Department of Transportation website concerning the Illinois Street Reconstruction Project.



Pinks, yellows, greens, and… traveling pianos? First Friday in May will bring a spectacular springtime display to downtown Fairbanks, from the styles of the artists to the objects and ideas on which they choose to focus. Quilts, photographs, pressed botanicals, handmade birch books, fused glass jewelry, watercolors, and culinary art from a favorite local bakery will dot the streets and storefronts throughout the night. Tired of not being able to recycle glass in town? Draw inspiration from up-cycled glassware, and check out jewelry made from guitar picks while you’re downtown. The dynamite seasonal centerpiece is a collection of artwork from 40 Alaskan artists at If Only… a Fine Store on Cushman Street—guaranteed to please. See you on the streets!

“Pink Summer,” Randall Compton @ Lady Lee’s Bath House Emporium, 825 1st Avenue

DonBarrington Photography @ Alana’s Espresso Escape, Co-Op Plaza, Suite 101

Cozy Quilts by Sew in the Snow @ River City Café & Espresso, 523 2nd Avenue

Made in Alaska, You Bet! @ If Only… a fine store, 215 Cushman Street

Girl Scout Troop 175 @ Chartreuse, 729 1st Avenue

Phyllis Tate @ Morris Thompson Center, 101 Dunkel Avenue

A Season of Things to Come & Spring Sparklers @ S Salon & Studio, 901 Cushman Street

May Day– A Spring Celebration @ 2 Street Gallery, Co-Op Plaza, Suite 102

The Charm of Wood @ l’assiette de Pomegranate, 414 2nd Avenue

A Naturalist’s View @ Gallery 49, Co-Op Plaza, Suite 103

A Naturalist’s Retrospective @ Co-op Arts Learning Center, Co-Op Plaza. Suite 202

Arctic Memories @ The Alaska House Art Gallery, 1003 Cushman Street

Recipes from the Bun @ The Alaska House Art Gallery, 1003 Cushman Street

Sun Catchers @ Beads and Things, 537 2nd Avenue

One More Round & Samantha Miller @ Hair, Body and Sol, 1221 Noble Street, Ste 201

Joel Isaak @ Fairbanks Community Museum , 410 Cushman Street

Misalliance by George Bernard Shaw @ Empress Theatre, Co-Op Plaza, 3rd Ave Entrance

Sand Castle @ McCafferty’s, A Coffee House, Etc., 408 Cushman Street




The largest parade in Alaska in decades, maybe ever, will envelope 5,000 soldiers when they march through downtown.  The Stryker brigade, with other units of the Army and branches of the United States Armed Forces, will march from Fort Wainright, up Noble Street to Second Avenue, then westward to Pioneer Park on May 12 starting at 10 AM. For more information, call 452-8671.  To volunteer to help decorate 2nd Avenue, email David. 


Think Airport Way and Wendell Street Bridge.  These will get you directly to downtown.

Due to Illinois Street Reconstruction road closures, College Road and Phillips Field Road will still get you downtown – through a detour.  For the simplest approach to downtown, enter from Airport onto Cushman Street.  Or aim for the Wendell Street Bridge if you’re coming from the north.

Northbound traffic on Cushman Street goes all the way through to College Road.  But southbound traffic across the Cushman Street Bridge will be closed perhaps until August.  For project details and recent news and announcements, visit the Illinois Street Project’s website.


It’s bright and beautiful outside, and we here at the Downtown Association want to spread the summer cheer with the top meals + locations for a picnic lunch. Have your own ideas? Post them in the comments below.

1. Salads from Gambardella’s + Steps of Masonic Temple Lodge
A historical building on a breezy street with a riverfront view- what more could you ask for? Fancy salads like Pear Walnut Salad ($12.95) and Backened Salmon Caesar ($13.95) are made fresh just a block away and boxed to go.

2. Soup du Jour from l’assiette de Pomegranate + Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center
Just a short walk from the Morris Thompson Center, you’ll find the highest quality ingredients prepared daily by Joan at l’assiette de Pomegranate. Pick up a roast beef, turkey, or ham sandwich ($12.50) and cup of soup ($14.95 total) and mosey over to the picnic tables near the Antler Arch to escape the noise and bustle of downtown for a quick bite.

3. Paninis from Alana’s Espresso Escape + Rooftop
Downtown employees know that one of the perks of a tall office building is the escape it provides for a little fresh air during the work day. Alana’s Espresso Escape makes the best paninis in town ($6.75-$7.50), so invite your favorite coworkers and take in the panoramic view from atop your balcony or roof.

4. Ice Cream from The Fudge Pot + Golden Heart Plaza
Just a hop, skip, and a jump from the benches, live music, and pretty river views of Golden Heart Plaza is The Fudge Pot with soft serve ice cream ($2.75) and sandwiches like the BLT, Patrami & Provolone, and Tuna ($8.50). A cup of their delicious salmon chowder can be had for just $3.25 and side salads are available, as well.

5. “Original Monsters” from Speedy Subs + Graehl Landing
The brand new Speedy Subs location just happens to be a block away from the boat launch and picnic tables of Graehl Landing, so pick up a Speedy “Monster” like the Arctic Hillbilly (shredded beef pot roast) and Pepper Steak (sirloin with green peppers) for $10 or an “Original” like the Hawaiian ($8.50) or Cheese & Avocado ($9.25) on your way to the launch.

6. Pizza from Bobby’s + Veterans Memorial Park
The gazebo in Veterans Memorial Park is big enough for your entire office, and can be reserved in advance through the borough. Order a pizza (or several) from Bobby’s like the Aphrodite (white sauce, chicken, shrimp, and feta for $20.75-$26.75) or The Immigrant (prime rib, onions, bacon, sausage, and tomatoes for $20.75-$27.75). Bonus: You’ll get to chill out with the Occupy Fairbanks folks if they’re around, and they’ll be glad to help finish your pizza.

7. Wraps from Sunrise Bagel & Espresso + Immaculate Conception Church
Sunrise Bagel is as friendly to walk-up service as drive-thru. Their lunch menu includes sandwich/wrap options like Chicken Bacon Ranch ($6.75) and Reuben ($6.50). Wash it down with a milkshake ($3-4) or root beer float ($3.75) while watching the river traffic from the north bank of the Chena River on the grassy area in front of Immaculate Conception Church, perched atop one of several picnic tables.

8. Smoothies + A Local Cafe
River City Cafe and Julia’s Solstice Cafe both offer three things that picnic-goers love: 1.) outdoor seating, 2.) delicious daily specials, and 3.) smoothies! In all kinds of delicious, fruity flavors. Need we say more?

9. Sandwiches from The Red Couch + Canoe on the Chena River
Nothing says “picnic” like a float down the Chena River, munching and sipping your lunch as you row. Launch at Graehl Landing and bring your made-to-order sandwich ($4.50-$8.00) from The Red Couch for a leisurely float. Don’t be surprised if you don’t make it back to work… you’ll be tempted to just keep floating on…

Thanks to Sarah Smith, Kara Nash, Chartreuse Fairbanks, Sandy Magar-Speed, and Cindy Reichmuth for their valuable input into this article. Want to help us write articles? Find us on Facebook and watch for opportunities to submit your thoughts.


Fifty brand new state flags are up on the Cushman Street Bridge in downtown Fairbanks. The new flags were purchased by Denali State Bank. They were assembled on the bridge by Grasle Electric employees, Chris Bush and Dan Amundson.

The Downtown Association of Fairbanks has solicited sponsors for new flags and their upkeep for many years. Ken Henry, President of the Downtown Association, said, “Flag protocol dictates that state flags are to be displayed in the order of admittance to the State of the Union.” The order of the flags on the bridge represents this sequence. The first flag on the northeast corner is Delaware and the last state, Hawaii, is on the southwest corner.


A new public art installation will be crafted for the high-visibility space between Cushman and Barnette Street just north of the Chena River (in front of the Big I Pub & Lounge) in conjunction with the Illinois Street Project. The piece will be placed in a greenspace accessible by sidewalk and bike path and lined with trees and plantings.

What will this piece look like? How will it represent Fairbanks?

That’s where YOU come in.

The design and selection of the artwork will rely heavily on suggestions and themes offered up by the Fairbanks community. A committee has been formed by Fairbanks Metropolitan Area Transporation System (FMATS) to create a public brainstorming and selection process that will result in a geographically, culturally, and historically relevant art installation. This process begins now and continues through the rest of this year, until a concept is chosen by January of 2013 and the installation is complete by fall of 2013.

A series of meetings have been held by the newly formed FMATS Art Selection Advisory Committee to lay out the early steps of gathering feedback and designing a request for proposals that will reflect the cultural fabric of the Interior. The project website lists full details, and a Facebook page maintains up-to-the minute progress.

The Committee is now gathering public comment, through a variety of channels, about the significance of this new greenspace. Be sure to log your ideas and suggestions by May 30th. Future feedback on specific proposal ideas and other project elements will be requested by the Committee as the process moves forward.

Feedback on these specific questions will help shape the overarching themes and concepts for an RFP, which will be circulated to artists around the globe. You can submit your answers through the FMATS website:

  • How would you describe Fairbanks’ unique physical characteristics?
  • Why do you live in Fairbanks and what keeps you here?
  • How is the past and present Chena River significant to Fairbanks?
  • What could this space mean to Fairbanks?
  • How would you describe what is unique about the people of Fairbanks?
  • What would you like to see represented in this space?

A launch party titled “Meet Your New Greenspace!” (see invite) is taking place in just over a week, with opportunity to submit answers and meet committee members. The party is on Saturday, April 28th from 2-5:00PM in front of the Big I Pub & Lounge.

A lecture titled “Public Art as Landmarking” will precede the event at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center beginning at 1:00PM. Julie Decker, Ph.D. is the Chief Curator of Art and the Exhibitions Administrator at the Anchorage Museum and an instructor at the University of Alaska, Anchorage.  She will give an illustrated presentation about the importance of public art in Fairbanks at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor’s Center and be available at “Meet Your New Greenspace”!

Another chance to learn more will come with a KIN presentation on Thursday, April 26th by members of the Committee on the project history and opportunities to get involved. KIN will be held from 5:30-7:00PM in the basement of Immaculate Conception Church, across from the future project site. Dinner is provided.

Stay tuned for more updates from this project in the future!



Starting April 23, southbound traffic across the Cushman Street Bridge will be closed until further notice.  To aid navigation in the early stages of the Illinois Street Reconstruction Project, the DOT prepared a map showing the Cushman Bridge and other closures and a detour on Wendell Street Bridge.  A traffic control plan for Driveway and Terminal streets will accommodate access to businesses and government buildings in the construction zone, like Julia’s Solstice Café, the News-Miner, the Borough building, the Big I, etc.   The Illinois Street Reconstruction Project page is here. 


Photo Credit: Iris Sutton

On Saturday April 7, the First Presbyterian Church at 7th and Cushman will host an Easter Egg Hunt for kids from 10-11:30 AM.  This is an open invitational hunt for toddlers to the 6th grade to find 2,000 eggs hidden throughout the spacious church.  Special golden eggs bestow special, secret prizes on the finder.  Age groups will hunt seprately.  The event also includes professional face painting, crafts, and snacks.  Call 452-2406 for more information.

Sunday’s offerings start with the Easter Sunrise Service on the William Ransom Wood Centennial footbridge over the Chena River.  Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and more will worship at 7 AM in this short, inspirational celebration in dawn’s calm quiet. The non-denominational service will be accompanied by a choir and will have a warming bus, hot-crossed buns and hot drinks, and porta-potties. Parking is plentiful at either end of the footbridge.

Don’t miss Easter Sunday dinner at The Pomegranate.  A Taste of Spain is a fun way to enjoy a hot buffet dinner and sumptuous desserts with other Fairbanksans marking Easter’s promise.  The only seating for this authentic fare starts at 1:30. Call 451-7505 for reservations.  $34 per person does not include gratuity.


Co-Op Arts Learning Center is a new art business in Fairbanks, offering a teaching space for the arts.  It was created to encourage developing the artist within each person, something for all ages and stages of artistic growth.   The focus is on promoting art as a viable business for Fairbanks area artists.

Located in the heart of downtown Fairbanks, The Learning Center complements the multiple art venues available in the Co-Op Plaza.  In addition to the wide variety of classes & workshops planned, The Learning Center will host its own First Friday with a featured artist each month.  And, art from those represented in Gallery 49 will hang on the walls.

Experience has shown that doing workshops within a small art gallery is less than satisfactory.  The Learning Center is space dedicated to teaching.  The room can accommodate 12-15 students at work tables, or tables can be set aside for open space.  Lighting is bright for artistic work.  There will be basic computer support for presentations.  Instructors can hang their art on the walls during classes, for students to study or purchase.  Rent is kept low, so small classes can be accommodated with low risk.

Teaching events already planned include:

  • Preschoolers, Parents & Art:  Fridays, 10:30-11:30AM, an art activity shared by parents and children, with the goal of ‘parenting toward creativity.’
  • Animation classes for ages 12 and up.
  • Children’s summer art classes:  Different subjects and durations based on course content and interest.
  • Art Excursions: Two hour, all inclusive events perfect for generational adventurers, summer guests with time to spare, artist tourists expanding their skills, and local artists who can fit in mini workshops.  The Art Excursions start Memorial Day, run twice weekly (days TBD) through Labor Day, 6:30-8:30PM.
  • Home School children’s art opportunities – details will be finalized by July for the next Fall & Spring semesters.
  • Individual workshops sponsored by artists.  Currently scheduled presenters are Don Kolstad (FSAF guest Artist from Anchorage), Sandra Westcott (Zentangles), Alex Hundertmark (using your digital camera), Kevin O’Brien (animation), and Nikki Kinne (watercolor, composition, etc.)

Classes are updated when scheduled, at “Calendar”.

Artists interested in teaching in The Learning Center should contact Nikki Kinne for costs and scheduling.

907-388-3235 (C)

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Downtown Association of Fairbanks – Fairbanks Alaska