“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.
With the Borough Assembly scheduled to vote on the Vision Fairbanks-inspired additions to the Borough’s zoning code sometime after 7 PM Thursday March 24, the News-Miner delved into the matter. Click here to read the News-Miner editorial.
With the Borough Assembly scheduled to vote on the Vision Fairbanks-inspired additions to the Borough’s zoning code sometime after 7 PM Thursday March 24, it’s a good time – the last time – to survey the benefits of creating new zone types, as well as what could wrong should the Borough adopt Ordinance 2010-09.
For years, there has been concern that downtown Fairbanks lacks tools to compete for investment and attention against cheap land and suburban sprawl. That concern finds a partial remedy in Ordinance 2010-09 which contains economic development tools to help downtown compete for investment. Ordinance 2010-09 contains two new zone types that vividly describe a downtown of mixed uses – retail and commercial establishments, residents, and pedestrians – and provide a means to get there by protecting investment and value in downtown properties. The zone types also contain three simple, achievable building standards to support the mixed uses of downtown. Ordinance 2010-09 only creates two new zone types; applying the zone types through a so-called rezone would be a later process.
This is the first and perhaps only piece of business to come before the Borough Assembly from downtown’s revitalization plan. It would make sense, then, that the Assembly consider this ordinance through the lens of economic development.
A member of the general public might perceive in the adoption of these new zone types that the Assembly did what was in its power to promote economic development downtown.
A property owner downtown might likewise feel that Fairbanks is sustaining some small momentum to revitalize downtown. The new zone types can become a tool of economic self-determination to help downtown compete for investment. Downtown needs tools – something needs to change and improve – and maybe a new zoning tool will help protect and encourage investment downtown. Anyway, the tool is there when and if you need it.
Retailers might shrug and say that new zone types are not among downtown’s top five needs right now. Not even top ten. You know that these new zones types are not the only way to revitalize downtown and won’t by themselves revitalize downtown. You know that more storefronts with more tenants complimenting your business would be good for your business. It hasn’t happened yet; maybe new zone types will help.
What could go wrong with creating new zone types? The new zones types might never be used for one reason or another.
Some say that that’s unlikely. Some say that, like the nuclear bomb, once created the new zone types will be used. Downtown will be forcibly rezoned. While this could happen, forcible re-zones are rare in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Moreover, it would take a Mayor hell-bent on a rezone to bring it to the Assembly. And then the Assembly would need to approve the rezone.
The zone types or the development standards may discourage investment downtown. True. But they might encourage investment. That’s what they’re intended to do, after all.
Something could go wrong pursuing potential economic reward. But the alternative of taking no risk – of not creating the new zone types – leaves downtown without any new tools and discounts the probability that Fairbanks is ready for some new tools to revive economic activity downtown.
See the action: Thursday March 24 – public hearing and FINAL VOTE at the Borough Assembly chambers at 7 PM
As previously reported, the Borough Assembly will soon decide whether or not to create new revitalization tools for downtown Fairbanks. This article examines the impact of Ordinance 2010-09 being voted down, offers counterpoint to the fears that may lead to its failure, and examines the impact of passing the Vision Fairbanks-inspired ordinance.
In review, Ordinance 2010-09 contains two new zone types which vividly describe a downtown of mixed uses – retail and commercial establishments, residents, and pedestrians. The zone types also contain three simple, achievable development standards to support the mixed uses of downtown. These new zones types are not the only way to revitalize downtown and won’t by themselves revitalize downtown, but they are part of a long term effort to do so. Ordinance 2010-09 would only create new zone types; it will not apply them.
The impact of killing Ordinance 2010-09 is substantial. If the vote on Ordinance 2010-09 is a tie or has a majority opposed, then the Assembly will have rejected the only piece of the downtown revitalization plan to come before it since the Assembly adopted the Downtown Plan in 2008. Odds are that the Assembly will have nothing to put in its place and will have no further doings with downtown’s revitalization, no subsequent opportunity to support economic development downtown at no cost.
Opponents of the plan see great risk in creating two new zone types, namely that creating two new zone types enlarges government’s ability to harm its citizens, and a fear that the zone types and the development standards will discourage future investment downtown. Proponents of the new zone types claim the greater risk is that – even if created – the new zone types may never be applied, may never be used, may never figure into downtown’s revitalization.
Still, opponents of zoning contend that adding two more zone types to the 16 zoning districts already in code will make the Borough that much more likely to re-zone properties. Were a forcible rezone to arise downtown by the hand of the Borough Mayor, the rezone would first have to be approved by the Borough Assembly. If the Borough Assembly endorsed the rezone in the course of a pubic process that includes the Planning Commission, then any aggrieved land-owners within the rezoned area (or even people simply aggrieved by the action downtown) could appeal to Alaska’s Superior Court. If the courts uphold the Assembly’s action, then the rezone is final (though further appeal is possible). This course of events begs the question: is a Mayor or an Assembly member likely to bring forward a forcible rezone?
Also, opponents of zoning contend that creating new zone types will discourage future investment downtown because the permitted uses are restrictive and the development standards unique to these zone types would drive up capital costs of new construction, discourage renovations and investment in general. While the new zone types are intended to encourage and protect investment downtown as they have in other downtowns, it is true that the new zone types could have the opposite effect. But that would require them to be applied: remember that a rezone is a separate step that can be initiated by the Borough mayor (as above), an Assembly member or landowners themselves: remember that Ordinance 2010-09 would only create the zone types, not apply them.
Passage of the zone types demonstrates that Fairbanks has the will and cohesion to advance a long-term revitalization effort. With passage of the zones types, Fairbanks says, “investment downtown is welcome!” To maximize and protect investment we have new zone types available. Were the zone types in effect the last dozen years, they would have influenced new construction downtown. The Mariott would have been welcomed! And Vision Fairbanks zoning would have steered Marriott’s site plan to put Lavelle’s Bistro on Cushman Street, presenting an active, bright aspect to the busiest street downtown. Likewise, Mt. McKinley would have been welcomed downtown! And Vision Fairbanks zoning would have steered its site plan to have clearer windows – and in some cases real windows – facing 3rd Avenue.
To bring that investment, it would be helpful to show progress on a long-term plan for downtown’s revitalization. And when that investment comes, it would be good to have new zone types available in Borough code to assist downtown’s revitalization.
Ordinance 2010-09 will be at the Borough Assembly Thursday March 17 for a work session in the Borough Assembly chambers at 6 PM (timing is approximate since the work session follows the Finance Committee meeting, which starts at 5:30 PM). The meeting is open to the public, but there is no public comment period.
And again Thursday March 24 for a public hearing and FINAL VOTE at the Borough Assembly chambers at 7 PM (timing is approximate since they’ll get to Ordinance 2010-09 when they get to it).
The Vision Fairbanks-inspired additions to Title 18 are on track to be decided at the Borough Assembly. Ordinance 2010-09 contains two new zone types which vividly describe a downtown of mixed uses – retail and commercial establishments, residents, and pedestrians – and provide a means to get there by protecting investment and value in downtown properties. The zone types also contain three simple, achievable building standards to support the mixed uses of downtown. If passed, Ordinance 2010-09 would only create two new zone types. Applying the zone types through a so-called rezone would be a later and – we expect – voluntary process.
Many, many people desire downtown Fairbanks to fare better. These new zones types are not the only way to revitalize downtown and won’t by themselves revitalize downtown. But they are a piece of an intricate, long term effort to do so and they are up for decision now.
If you desire to see downtown fare better, please familiarize yourself with these new zone types . The new zone types and downtown core development standards in Ordinance 2010-09:
- provide new tools to help downtown compete for investment even while cheap land beckons our community to sprawl;
- provide a tool of self-determination to downtown property owners intent on revitalizing downtown;
- are inspired by many of downtown’s existing buildings (see photos);
- assure business owners that their investment will be supported by the growth of complimentary establishments on adjoining properties, especially on the ground floor;
- recognize that a building’s shape can further the use it houses and so sets forth minimal, achievable development standards to encourage retail and commercial uses downtown;
- discourage some ground floor uses – like self storage establishments or liquor stores or car washes – that would limit the practical uses of adjoining property and thereby limit the property’s higher use and higher value;
- won the qualified support of the City of Fairbanks via Resolution 4410 on April 5, 2010;
- work in concert with other revitalization measures underway, like the Cushman and Barnette signature street project;
- will continue momentum for downtown’s revitalization;
- cannot be pulled out of thin air when needed – so they need to be added to Title 18.
Thursday March 17 work session at the Borough Assembly chambers at 6 PM (timing is approximate since the work session follows the Finance Committee meeting, which starts at 5:30 PM). The meeting is open to the public, but there is no public comment period.
Thursday March 24 public hearing and FINAL VOTE at the Borough Assembly chambers at 7 PM (timing is approximate since they’ll get to Ordinance 2010-09 when they get to it).
You can find more informatin at VisionFairbanks.com
On Monday November 22, the Fairbanks City Council voted 6-0 to financially support the operations of the Community Service Patrol with $50,000 per year through 2013. (News-Miner story and editorial.) The City’s move punctuates a successful year of bolstering Fairbanks’ response to both the troubles faced by chronically inebriate people and the challenges they present to the Fairbanks community. Successes downtown in 2010 include:
- A ‘Housing First’ effort in Fairbanks is progressing;
- The Alaska Mental Health Trust provided $64,000 to the operations of the CSP;
- Additional Alaska Mental Health funds also purchased a new van for the CSP;
- Keystone supporters of the CSP increased their giving in 2010: Fairbanks Memorial Hospital increased by12% and Doyon Ltd by 33%;
- The Fairbanks North Star Borough now supports the CSP’s operations, matching the Hospital’s contribution;
- Discussions have revived among downtown landowners about creating a Downtown Improvement District to help support the operations of the CSP and other supplemental services.
There is much more yet to do. The ordinance requires a hefty $140,000 match to get the City’s $50,000 contribution to the CSP. Still, the City’s action does much to ensure that the City can cost-effectively meet the requirements of state law while encouraging others to participate in our community’s response to chronically inebriated people. One thing you can do right now is thank City Council members Vivian Stiver and John Eberhart for sponosring the ordinance and the whole council for supporting it.
Vivian Stiver firstname.lastname@example.org 347-2102
Chad Roberts email@example.com 452-2435
Bernard Gatewood firstname.lastname@example.org 978-4723
Jim Matherly email@example.com 456-6626, Cell 460-1944
Emily Bratcher firstname.lastname@example.org 460-1658
John Eberhart email@example.com 452-8251 ext. 3005
Mayor Jerry Cleworth firstname.lastname@example.org 459-6793
Visual Light Transmittance is a measure of how much visible light passes through a pane of glass. A high VLT score means you have transparent glass, a brightly lit interior space. Transparent glass also makes it easier for a person standing on a sidewalk to view the contents of the interior space. For that reason, transparent glass is desirable in retail areas. See the transparency values of downtown’s existing glass.
And for that reason, visual light transmittance is a key requirement to revitalizing downtown. Think of a mall – clear glass. Think of downtown retailers like Big Ray’s, Alaska Gold’n’Gems, Gambardella’s, Lavelle’s, If Only . . . a fine store – these establishments all have clear glass. Form is function: Point-of-sale retail requires clear glass to showcase the wares sold within the building.
To support the resurgence of retail downtown, Borough Ordinance 2010-09 will create two new zone types that contain – among other refinements to existing zoning – a Vision Fairbanks-inspired requirement that new glass installed downtown at the ground floor be transparent.
Now, should these new zone types be added to Title 18 of Borough Code, every existing use downtown would be grandfathered. So it is useful to speak in terms of new construction downtown when looking at the impact of the transparency requirement. It would be a simple matter to meet a standard for transparent glass – and an equally simple matter to install tinted glass that discourages street-level activity, unless there was a standard encouraging transparency. As to capital costs, transparency is one of several variables in the composition of glass. The same window that has high transparency can also be energy efficient and have high UV-blocking properties.
The new zone types contained in Ordinance 2010-09 are revitalization tools Fairbanks may need someday to protect the investment environment downtown. The ordinance is slowly making its way through the Borough administration and will be referred again to the Planning Commission for a work session specifically on the matter of transparency November 23 at 6 PM in the Borough Assembly chambers.
The community economic development plan called Vision Fairbanks has generated much interest this election cycle. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner’s order cialis
target=”_blank”>candidate questionnaire and the Tanana Valley League of Women Voters’ candidate forum (story on KUAC) were both heavy with downtown issues.
All candidates for City Council and City Mayor are conversant with plan details and claim some level of support for the plan. Several candidates for City office have a voting record on a pair of implementation measures meant to ‘set the stage’ for economic development downtown. Since the plan’s adoption in August of 2008, there have been two votes on Vision implementation in which incumbent City Councilman Bernard Gatewood, incumbent City Mayor Terry Strle and mayoral candidate and sitting Councilman Jerry Cleworth cast votes.
The first was on February 9, 2009. Resolution 4353 sponsored by Councilman Cleworth would have stopped the effort to convert Cushman and Barnette streets to two-way traffic circulation. (Vision Fairbanks calls for converting downtown’s roadways to two-way traffic.) The resolution failed and the vote was as follows:
AYES: Roberts, Stiver, Cleworth
NAYS: Bratcher, Gatewood, Eberhart, Strle
The next vote came April 5, 2010. Resolution 4410 co-sponsored by Mayor Strle and Councilmember Bratcher signaled to the Borough Assembly the City’s qualified support for the addition of new zone types in Borough code. (Vision Fairbanks calls for creating new zone types.) The resolution passed and the vote was as follows:
AYES: Roberts, Eberhart, Gatewood, Bratcher
NAYS: Cleworth, Stiver