Downtown Association of Fairbanks – Fairbanks Alaska
zoning

REVITALIZATION SCORECARD

The implementation phase of Vision Fairbanks is over.  See News-Miner article. Neither of the plan’s foundational pieces – revising traffic circulation downtown and creating new zoning tools – found support among transportation planners and the Borough Assembly, respectively.

Several candidates for local office* have a voting record on measures meant to ‘set the stage’ for economic development downtown.  In the last year, incumbent Borough Assembly candidates Joseph Blanchard II and Michael Dukes cast votes on two Vision Fairbanks implementation measures.

The first was on March 24, 2011.  Ordinance 2010-09 would have created new zoning tools to attract future investment. The ordinance failed in a tie vote and the vote was as follows:

FOR: Hutchison, Kassel, Musick, Winters

AGAINST: Blanchard, Dukes, Howard, Want

The next was June 23, 2011.  Ordinance 2011-31would have created new zoning tools to attract future investment and enhance parking provisions downtown. The ordinance failed and the vote was as follows:

FOR: Kassel, Musick, Winters

AGAINST: Beck, Blanchard, Dukes, Howard, Hutchison, Want

Revitalizing a downtown is complex.  The Downtown Association is committed to an all-of-the-above approach to downtown’s day-to-day and necessary long-term structural changes.  So we’ll explore possibilities remaining in the Vision Fairbanks plan, continue to generate ideas and events that bring people downtown and support the efforts and ideas of others to do the same.

*There have been no Vision Fairbanks-inspired ordinances or resolutions at the City Council in the last twelve months, so there is no voting record for the lone incumbent candidate John Eberhart.

Hear candidates for local office at the Downtown Market soap box Monday, September 19th in Golden Heart Plaza

4 - Introduction of the soap box forum

4:30 – David Lerman, candidate for City Council

5 - Mike Walleri, candidate for City Council

5:30 – John Davies, candidate for Borough Assembly

6 – Joe Blanchard, candidate for Borough Assembly

6:30 – Lloyd Hilling, candidate for City Council

7 – Van Lawrence, candidate for Borough Assembly

7:30 – John Kohler, candidate for Borough Assembly


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RE-CHARTING DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION

The implementation phase of Vision Fairbanks is over.  Neither of the plan’s foundational pieces – revising traffic circulation and creating new zoning tools – was acceptable to enough businesses and property owners downtown.  The latest disappointment for revitalization came June 23rd when the Borough Assembly defeated Ordinance 2011-31.  That ordinance would have created two new zone types in Borough code to guide land use downtown.  Read News-Miner story here. 

The Vision Fairbanks plan relies on traffic circulation and new zoning tools to attract significant future investment.  Those changes would improve downtown’s competitiveness as an investment destination.  Without those pieces, downtown revitalization is still possible, of course, but proponents will chart a different course. 

Revitalizing a downtown is complex.  The Downtown Association is committed to an all-of-the-above approach to downtown’s day-to-day and necessary long-term structural changes.  So we’ll explore possibilities remaining in the Vision Fairbanks plan, continue to generate ideas and events that bring people downtown and support the efforts and ideas of others to do the same. 

Questions or comments?  Call David at 452-8676 or email david@downtownfairbanks.com  

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NEW ZONE TYPES UP FOR A VOTE

Ordinance 2011-31 is up for a vote this Thursday night at the Borough Assembly starting at roughly 8 PM.  Ordinance 2011-31 is a second attempt to create Vision Fairbanks-inspired zone types to encourage investment downtown. The first effort was defeated in a 4-4 tie on March 24 due to concerns about the availability of parking in the new zone types.  Ordinance 2011-31 therefore increases the availability of parking: parking lots would be allowed as a principal use in the Downtown Supporting Commercial District and the Retail Hot Spot zone would allow on-site accessory parking as a conditional use.

For more information, call 452-8676.

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A SECOND ZONING ORDINANCE ALREADY

There is a new ordinance to refine the Borough’s zoning code and create economic development tools to help downtown compete for investment.

Sponsored by Assembly members Winters, Hutchison and Kassel, Ordinance 2011-31 is a second attempt to create Vision Fairbanks-inspired zone types to encourage investment downtown.   The first effort was defeated in a 4-4 tie on March 24 due to concerns about the treatment of parking in the new zone types.  Ordinance 2011-31 therefore addresses those concerns about parking:  parking would be allowed as a principal use in the Downtown Supporting Commercial District, as it presently is in the Central Business District; and the Retail Hot Spot zone would allow on-site parking as an accessory use.

Ordinance 2011-31 has a busy schedule:

May 17 @ 6 PM – Planning Commission public hearing

May 24 @ 6 PM – Planning Commission again, if necessary

June 9 @ 6 PM – Introduction at the Borough Assembly

June 16 – Earliest possible date for a work session

June 23 – Earliest possible date for public hearing

Stay tuned for this second effort to implement Fairbanks’s downtown revitalization plan.  See News-Miner article here.

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LOVE THE POLARIS AGAIN

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.

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ZONING ORDINANCE DOWN BUT NOT OUT

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.

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REVITALIZATION PLAN FAILS

“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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THE NEWS-MINER ON DOWNTOWN’S REVITALIZATION

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.

Downtown Association of Fairbanks – Fairbanks Alaska