Downtown Association of Fairbanks – Fairbanks Alaska


The Regulatory Commission of Alaska denied Aurora Energy’s petition to deregulate its steam heat utility. Read the purchase cialis online

n-u10058.5.pdf” target=”_blank”>Commission’s decision and the News-Miner coverage.


Take an 11-story concrete façade that has stood blank and empty for over a decade, long ago erased or rendered irrelevant in the mental maps of locals. Wrap it in giant banners and spell out a plea for love. Install chalkboards for locals to scrawl “memories” and “hopes.” Keep it up for roughly two weeks, and inspire dialogue about a long-time urban eyesore that would otherwise spend yet another few weeks in oblivion.

That’s the concept put forward by New Orleans artist Candy Chang to the Alaska Design Forum, and currently being brought to life by a devoted team of volunteer artists, architects and designers crouched over rolls of giant banner cloth in a vacant warehouse. The chalkboards are already installed and the Polaris building, the tallest building in Fairbanks, will be wrapped later this week and officially unveiled on Friday at 6pm from the deck of Gambardella’s.

Below are snippets from an interview with artist Candy Chang, who is in town for the installation, and Fairbanks architect/Looking for Love Project Manager David Hayden:

What drew you to this project and the Polaris building in particular?

David: Well, it’s blight. It’s classic blight. It’s an abandoned building. I mean- it’s, like, broken. The piping’s frozen. One year water was coming out the front door. Boarded up windows. So one of the other architects, while we were coming up with the idea, said “What about the Polaris?” and I said- “Yeah, there’s nothing better.” It’s something we all try to ignore.

Candy: I was talking to David about potential sites and he mentioned this building. He showed me a picture of it. He said it was vacant for over ten years. So I learned more and from what I understand, it opened in 1952 as an apartment complex and after housing demands went down, it turned into a hotel. Now it’s been sitting there collecting dust for over a decade. And this is not an anomaly. There are vacant buildings in cities all across the U.S. And it’s so common that they’ve slipped quietly into the backdrop and have become almost an accepted part of our landscape. This project is about how can residents shape these buildings more, how can they share information, how can they share their stories behind the building and also share what hopes and dreams they have for it.

You’ve spoken in interviews before about creating new opportunities for people to be involved in the public planning process. Can you talk about how that idea relates to your work on this project?

Candy: No one knows what a neighborhood needs more than the people who live and work there. And what better place to start that conversation than in the very public spaces that we’re talking about and trying to change. I’m very passionate about redefining the ways we use public space to share information and to better reflect what’s important to us as residents. The chalkboards are there because it’s a really low-barrier tool to provide stories, to provide civic input directly on-site. There’s also going to be an accompanying website where people can share online. By talking about our physical environment and also our personal memory about buildings, I think we can better understand the history that has shaped our cities over the years and also affected our emotional well-being. What’s the emotional impact of having a giant vacant building as the backdrop to your day-to-day life?

That’s your job in a sense- how to inspire new thought or dialogue about public spaces. So tell me a little bit about how you tried to do this with the specific design of this project.

Candy: The building is the tallest building in Fairbanks, so how could I use this space that everyone can see from afar? By making a sign that is 70 feet wide and putting it on the most visible side so this vacant, concrete high-rise, this thing that a lot of people think is really ugly, becomes a sentimental beacon pouring with emotion. How can you not do a double-take? The hope is that this will draw people over to the building where they’ll see the chalkboards and contribute their stories.

What do you find most interesting in designing these installations in different communities, on different facades or in different mediums?

Candy: What’s great is that I have no idea what will happen. It’s all about what people have to say. It’s not done until other people are involved. It makes it super exciting- it’s all one big experiment. And that’s interesting, too- to see how people use it and abuse it, and love it and hate it.

Right now, the way that our cities are designed, there’s no space for residents to share local information in public space. Citizens’ flyers are still illegal, yet there’s more and more space for business advertising. I feel like they can shout about their latest products on an increasing number of surfaces and it makes you think, “Can our public spaces be designed to better reflect what’s important to us as residents?”

What’s the dynamic of a temporary exhibit like this versus a public policy-making process or a long-standing, permanent art installation?

David: I think you get a more visceral reaction when it’s art versus a building. Buildings are a lot more background and this is a lot more foreground because it requires a bit more interaction with people. People are going to be like “That’s stupid,” or “That’s awesome!” And there’s a temporal nature about it- you know it’s going to be disappearing. That’s what I love about it- the whole project. And you don’t want it to be wrapped forever- it would just become a boring message after awhile.

Candy: I think they all play their part. They all have great benefits. I’m trying to make it more accessible to people and make that process more engaging. I only want to do things that are fun and I think planning your city can be fun by making it really easy for people to chime in and add their two cents. It really changes the voices you hear. When you go to the community meeting it tends to be the five loudest people in the neighborhood. That’s what community representation often is. The idea is how do you actually collect more voices because everybody’s voice counts. They’re just as much a part of the neighborhood.


Four other Common Space installations (ranging from bubbles of warmth for the Alaska Folk Festival to a traveling food commentary in Nome to a historical video project in Homer) will be on exhibit simultaneously across the state.

Chang holds degrees in graphic design, architecture, and urban planning and has worked on urban design projects in New York, Nairobi, Vancouver, and New Orleans. A few of her recent projects have aimed to bring new thought and vision to old spaces, or show appreciation for great public spaces that do exist. You can read more about Looking for Love and her other projects at her website.

Don’t forget to come to the Polaris building and add your thoughts!






Imagine you work downtown.

It’s five o’clock on a Monday night. You close up shop or finish filing the day’s work at your desk in an attorney’s office or government building. Before getting in your car, you stroll a few blocks until enveloped in a swarm of activity at Golden Heart Plaza. You duck into the crowd, maneuver through an assortment of booths, and purchase a bag of fresh lettuce for a dinner salad. With a nod of thanks to the farmer who hands over your change, you meander back across the bridge to your car. Your workday stress has subsided, the streets have quieted, and it’s time to head home.

Imagine you live downtown.

You’ve just made it through Fairbanks rush hour traffic and scored a parking spot right in front of your loft apartment. You pick up your mail and drop a satchel onto the couch before flipping on the TV for evening news. After an hour or so, you feel relaxed and ready to venture out. A friend wants to meet up and recap the weekend- but where? You suggest the weekly market, just three blocks from your couch. As you make your way, you hear the first notes of acoustic guitar floating above market hubbub. You chat with your friend while strolling through booths, taking in the sweet strums of folk, and pausing to watch a watercolor artist paint a river scene on the plaza edge. Eventually, you both wander to a table in a nearby coffeehouse.

Imagine you run a restaurant downtown.

A small staff and long hours of work that too often extend into your weekend make it nearly impossible to seek out any but the most convenient of ingredients. With a selection of local farms selling the highest-quality meats, fruits, and vegetables in the Interior, you jump on the chance to arrange pre-sales from a farmer who grows a few menu staples. He or she shows up to the market each week with a box specially labeled and set aside for your business. You time your pick-up to coincide with the market’s end, so you can scoop up any extra produce other farmers haven’t yet sold for tomorrow’s lunch special. Your patrons have complimented you for expanding your use of local ingredients, and especially on the fresh berries you’ve taken to featuring with desserts.

Imagine you are a downtown merchant.

Foot traffic is steady on Monday nights, and you prop your doors to welcome new and old visitors. You and other merchants on the block have decided to stay open until 8:30pm to capture the evening trickle from the close of the market. Next week you’re considering setting up a booth at the market itself to display a few items that tend to get lost in the store’s stuffed shelves. You enjoy the lighthearted laughs and spirits of locals and guests who come into your shop on these nights, and the spillover from the market atmosphere is pleasantly noticeable.

Imagine yourself as a musician or artist in Fairbanks.

You don’t have many Monday night gigs, so you sign up for a sponsored slot as a musician at the open-air market in the Golden Heart Plaza. You set out your hat for tips and enjoy the river breeze and evening air while locals mix and peruse the booths around you. Or, as an artist, you demonstrate your work in the plaza while selling a few prints or originals alongside your stand. It’s a switch from your studio and a nice opportunity to share your craft with the community. It also draws in new clients, as people request a portrait of their child or custom piece for an office waiting room.

Imagine you own a farm in Interior Alaska.

You have to make the most of your short but productive growing season, and Monday is usually an off day for area markets. Though unsure you can afford the staff or time to commit to a whole summer, you sign up for a few weeks to test the waters. Bringing boxes of leafy greens and berries early in the season, you connect with downtown restaurant owners who love your product and create a following amongst office staff who are leaving work to prepare dinner. You appreciate that the market layout is specially designed to allow quick in-and-out access to your stand by locals who don’t want to peruse. You also like that the market accepts food stamps, because you know low-income residents need healthy foods more than most.

Imagine you have guests in town.

What better place to begin your tour of downtown Fairbanks? Alaskan souveniers are available in both shops and at market stands, and time allows for a leisurely dinner before or after a market stop. Fairbanks artists and musicians provide live entertainment and a “living exhibit” for visitors. Keep an eye out for special events like a sidewalk art show for an extra special experience at this popular venue.

This could all happen in a Downtown Market.

The Downtown Association of Fairbanks is in the process of developing a weekly Downtown Market to commence this summer.

Sometimes it’s useful to set the stage for new efforts and initiatives with a vision. This piece was developed based on conversation with and support from downtown merchants, event vendors, local farmers, the Art League, Festival Fairbanks, and the city of Fairbanks.

Stay tuned for more information and official announcement, coming soon.

Questions, comments, or suggestions? Email Kara at



A new sponsorship opportunity is specially designed for individuals and families who love the Midnight Sun Festival! Contribute $150 to be named a “Friend of the Midnight Sun” for your support. Your contribution will help keep the festival and downtown revitalization going strong,  and you’ll receive a festival t-shirt and mention in festival promotions.

Each year, this festival blocks off streets in downtown Fairbanks for a twelve-hour, family-friendly day packed with live performances, activities for all ages, and hundreds of booths selling food, crafts, clothing, or providing information from area nonprofits.

The Midnight Sun Festival fits into the bigger picture of downtown revitalization by generating over 30,000 visitors in a single day and familiarizing locals and tourists alike with downtown Fairbanks.

Sign up today! Or contact Kara at knash@downtownfairbanks to contribute. We appreciate your support!


UPDATE: The schedule for the upcoming Looking for Love art installation at the Polaris building has been released:

April 11-15: Installation
April 12- Lecture by Candy Chang, public installation artist, at the Blue Loon at 6pm
April 15- Official unveiling, Gambardella’s deck at 6pm

Click here to be taken to the project page.

The Polaris Building is a landmark of downtown Fairbanks. Built in the 1950s, the once-thriving hotel is the tallest building in the city. The business has since closed, however, and the high-rise has stood empty for over a decade. How can this building be loved again?

Looking For Love Again generates excitement around downtown revitalization and brings heart to the urban planning process by creatively collecting citizens’ reflections on the building’s past and providing a way to share their ideas for its future. An interactive installation at the street level encourages residents to share their memories of the building as well as propose ideas for what they would like to see it become. Ornamentation fixed to the building reinforces the message.

In the end, the project provides residents with a fun and engaging platform to share local history and participate in the commercial revitalization of the downtown area – while tugging at the heart strings of those who might be able to make these dreams come true.

For more information, go to CommonSpace.


First Friday, the can’t-miss social event of each month, is about to get a major boost from social media. You can already find downtown participating businesses on the website, posters, and Facebook page of the Downtown Association of Fairbanks, but you’ll also soon be able to track all First Friday events through a special Facebook page created to inspire more collaboration and easier access. Businesses, artists, and fans can post news about upcoming First Friday shows, or use the site to network and make connections for new exhibits and shared promotions. The Downtown Association will be an active user of the page, but its founders also include downtown business owners and artists. This type of open forum is the logical next step for First Friday, as each month brings greater participation, more businesses, and ever-increasing opportunity for mutual support.

Digital Stories & Haifa @ Interior Aids Association, 710 3rd Avenue

Staff Show @ Morris Thompson Center, 101 Dunkel Street

First Friday Sale @ The Cats Meow, 212 Lacey Street

Jewelry Trunk Show by Lori Lieske @ If Only… a fine store,  215 Cushman Street

Beads, Ivory & Chief Feather Neck Designs @ Beads and Things,  535 2nd Avenue

Betsy Bear @ Lady Lee’s Bath House Emporium,  825 1st Avenue

“Alaskan Wildlife in Scrimshaw,” John Majak @ Co-Op Arts,  535 2nd Avenue, Suite 103

“Peek at the Pups,” Kate Wood @ The Dawg Wash,  541 9th Avenue

Photography Adventures @ Alana’s Espresso Escape,  535 2nd Avenue, Suite 101

Lathrop AP Art Class @ S Salon & Studio,  901 Cushman Street

The Musings of an Untidy Mind @ Chartreuse,  729 1st Avenue

Paul Krejci Piano & Davya Flaharty Prints @ 1st Church of Christ, Scientist 811 1st Avenue

“Caught Between,” Joel Isaak @ l’assiette de Pomegranate, 414 2nd Avenue

Earl Atchak @ Alaska House Art Gallery, 1003 Cushman Street

Free Dance Drills @ Space for Movement Studio, 410 2nd Avenue

Gabrielle Cross @ Lavelle’s Bistro, 575 1st Avenue

Live Jazz @ Bobby’s Downtown, 609 2nd Avenue

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

Weekend Entertainment @ The Big I Pub & Lounge, 122 N Turner Street

“Swing into Spring,” Jass Pharm @ The Empress Theatre, 535 3rd Avenue

Arly Jylz @ Big Daddy’s Bar-B-Q, 107 Wickersham Street


In local politics, an issue is often decided by force of numbers at the public hearing.  If the force of numbers also counts among its ranks lots of people directly affected, then that third lever to decide outcomes – persuasive reasoning – is just a nice garnish.  

But none of it worked last Thursday night when the Borough Assembly had a chance to create new zone types in Borough code.   Neither force of numbers, stakeholders, nor reason would sway enough Assembly members to support this cost-free, long-term measure to encourage investment downtown.  With roll call running four in favor and three opposed, Presiding Officer Joseph Blanchard II shocked the audience – at least this audience member – when, voting last, he cast a ‘no’ vote and sent ordinance 2010-09 to defeat. 

An upset like that could betoken political leadership.  But how to tell?  Assemblyman Blanchard had been silent as the Sphinx all night, neither asking questions of Borough staff nor engaging in the Assembly’s discussion on the ordinance. 

I was curious to know what motivated Assemblyman Blanchard to derail a Vision Fairbanks-inspired attempt two years in the making to revive economic activity downtown.  Answering his phone at 7:30 AM Friday morning, he explained his vote.  His concerns with the ordinance were not repairable in session that night, he told me.  As authors of the ordinance, he continued, the Downtown Association had constructed the ordinance incorrectly, spelling-out permitted uses rather than excluded uses, a form he would have preferred. 

Shock me once, shock me twice Assemblyman Blanchard.  In fact, the Borough’s Legal Department painstakingly wrote the ordinance in the form typical of other zoning districts in Borough code.  I asked that he ‘reconsider’ his vote, which could have put the same ordinance back on the agenda in two weeks. He agreed to consider ‘reconsideration’ by 5 PM that same day.

Answering his phone again at 4:50 PM, Assemblyman Blanchard said he would not reconsider his vote but intended to bring forward a similar ordinance that would garner the support of more of his colleagues. 

So we wait to see if Assemblyman Blanchard’s ordinance will be a sincere economic development measure.  The answer will indicate whom and what he purports to lead.


Do you have fits of anxiety coinciding with slumps in The Downtowner publishing cycle? Are you hopelessly lost without updates and web posts from the Downtown Association of Fairbanks to help map out your social life?

If so- you’re obviously itching for more insight than can be supplied in our biweekly newsletter. Luckily, the Downtown Association’s social media presence is quick becoming a real and useful connection to the daily news and highlights of downtown Fairbanks.

On Facebook and Twitter, you’ll find updates detailing the swirl of social, political, and economic activity that surrounds my desk at the corner of 5th Avenue and Cushman. I’ll try to keep these posts interesting and relevant- which means I’ll avoid updating every time I see a car wreck outside my window (two so far this year) or allow my coworker, Kara to convince me to try a new coffee concoction that puts me on the brink of a sugar coma. There are limits to your unabashed love of all things downtown, and I respect that.

But let us consider, just for a moment, how fabulously in-touch you could be via these two virtual streams.

First of all- daily news and specials will be routed directly to your inbox, iPhone, or news feed. Kara and I regularly post (or repost) coupons, discounts, event notices, and contests in the downtown core. If there’s a News-Miner article relevant to downtown business, activity, or policy- or a hot deal for lunch or a haircut- you’ll find it on our pages.

Better yet- if anyone at the Downtown Association is wondering how better to build capacity for great public space, we take our questions directly to Facebook and Twitter and anxiously await the thoughtful, colorful, real-time feedback you never fail to produce.

For example, Kara recently tweeted about an idea she’s developing for the summer: “First thing you think of when you hear ‘Downtown Summer Market.’ Ready… Go!” Just last week, she tweeted “Any suggestions on how to improve First Friday?” and passed this feedback along to participating businesses.

Facebook gives us a forum to share photos of events like ONAC, Tired Iron, and First Friday. Recent status updates have highlighted locations to purchase Goose Watch tickets, questioned how best to move forward after the defeat of Ordinance 2010-09, and put out a rather popular St. Patty’s day PSA announcing the 10am opening of the Big-I.

The Downtowner is rich in content but lacks interaction. Your only option to “reply” is through email, which only one person (me) will ever read. But when you comment through Facebook and Twitter, I can actually see you (sort of), and so can others- thus creating more opportunity, personality, and vibrancy.

There remain, of course, essential communication channels outside the virtual realm, and I’ll continue to rely on these to connect with you who prefer to not submit to Facebook and Twitter, or who lack access. But I hope those who do find us online will keep in regular touch and discover a new and useful downtown network. The Downtown Association is fortunate to have stellar connections with news, events, businesses and organizations in both the social media and tangible world. Why not tap our insider knowledge for all its worth?

Our social media accounts are relatively young and have ample room for growth. Join us now and we’ll keep you in the loop.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Find ways right here in the center of the Golden Heart City to help prevent youth homelessness and domestic violence from taking a stronger hold in the greater Alaska community:


On Thursday, March 31st, forty communities across Alaska will rally to “Choose Respect” as part of a state-wide effort by Governor Parnell to raise awareness of domestic violence and aid in its prevention.

Fairbanksans interested in participating in the rally should be at the Golden Heart Plaza at noon. The Fairbanks Office of the Governor has partnered with the Interior Alaska Center for Non-Violent Living to organize the lunchtime show of support. This is the second annual Choose Respect initiative in Fairbanks. About a hundred people gathered for the first installment last March.

Burke Barrick of the Alaska State Troopers and a representative from Governor Parnell’s office are scheduled to speak to the crowd, and participants are welcome to bring signs or use ones provided on-site. Information about domestic violence prevention and the Interior Alaska Center for Non-Violent Living, a 24-hour domestic violence and sexual assault shelter, will be available. The rally is expected to last about an hour, with coffee and light refreshments served throughout.


An estimated 500-800 homeless youth live in Fairbanks, according to a recent press release by the Street Outreach and Advocacy Program (SOAP), a division of Fairbanks Counseling and Adoption.

SOAP is at the forefront of assisting this underserved population, and operates a daily drop-in center at 530 7th Avenue for homeless, runaway, or at-risk youth to find friends, receive free clothing and hot meals, connect with social services, and work on resumes and job applications.

A half-day benefit concert to support SOAP’s continued work will be held from noon-11pm on April 9th at 310 1st Avenue (formerly Café Alex).

Titled WE ARE VISIBLE: A Benefit Concert for Homeless Youth, the day will include rotating musical acts, free guitar lessons and haircuts, a craft room, and prize giveaways. Eating For Two, InVein, New Teen Paranormal Romance, and Until Death are scheduled to perform.

Several downtown businesses have donated to the effort, including McCafferty’s, Music Mart, Forget-Me-Not Bookstore, and the Downtown Association of Fairbanks. Monetary or prize donations are welcome (contact Dan Vogel at 374-9913 or visit

SOAP clients, who range from 10-21 years old, have helped organize the fundraiser by making a poster and performing at the benefit. Much of SOAP’s budget comes from grants but fundraisers like this are an “added bonus” and can fuel new programs like music lessons which would not otherwise be funded.


Photos in this article taken from the Fairbanks album of the Governor Parnell’s Choose Respect website.


“Revitalization Plan Fails.”  That is today’s front page headline, top of the fold.  Ouch.

Thanks to many downtown property owners, downtown business people, downtown residents and others for writing and testifying to the usefulness of new zoning tools in revitalizing downtown Fairbanks.

Unfortunately, it was not enough to persuade the Borough to create the new zones and consequently the Borough whiffed its chance to assist downtown’s revitalization.  I speak for many when I say we regret not being able to carry the day.  Read News-Miner story. 

What next with Vision Fairbanks?  It will take some time to determine future efforts to achieve structural change downtown.  We will keep you all in the loop via this website and other media as meetings to consider this question are convened, as future plans take shape.

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Downtown Association of Fairbanks – Fairbanks Alaska