University effort urges public to re-think Town Square design

Devin Kelly
Erik Hill

Members of the Anchorage community are being asked to "re-imagine" the design of Town Square Park during a five-hour design and planning event in the Alaska Performing Arts Center on Saturday.

Organizers have labeled the event a "charette," a word that describes a collaborative design process that takes place in a short amount of time. It is part of an initiative through the University of Alaska Anchorage's Center for Community Development called "Urban in Alaska," a series of discussions and activities focused on urban issues.

Several urban designers are slated to participate in the charette, along with municipal ombudsman Darrel Hess. The underlying goal is to start a broader conversation about the park's future, as well as the future of public space in Anchorage, organizers said.

Acknowledging the complexity of opinions and ideas that exist about the park, organizers are hoping to attract a diverse cross-section of participants, including young people who use the park on a regular basis.

"It's really important all users have a voice in this process," said Bree Kessler, assistant professor of health sciences at UAA, a faculty fellow at the Center for Community Engagement and Learning and the creator of the "Urban in Alaska" initiative.

Interested community members are encouraged to attend the entire charette, and come forth with ideas on how the park could look differently in the future, Kessler said.

According to the agenda, the free event kicks off at 9:30 a.m. in the Discovery Theatre lobby of the PAC with registration and an introductory session about the background of the park in terms of social issues and design. From there, participants will break off into teams and move outside into the park, buying lunch from food trucks, exploring with sticky-note pads and writing down observations.

The teams will then regroup, share ideas and observations, and then report back, with the goal of identifying common themes and forming a larger vision for the park, said Sheila Selkregg, former Anchorage assemblywoman and a facilitator for the charette.

Selkregg said she envisions the charette producing a set of design criteria that can be shared with the Anchorage Assembly and the city parks commission.

"There are no winners or losers here," Selkregg said. "It's about us as a community coming together and talking about our shared values."

Anyone who has not yet registered for the charette can do so online at the "Urban in Alaska" page on the UAA website, or in person before the start of the event Saturday morning.

The effort will not bind the city to redesign the park or mandate any changes.

Reach Devin Kelly at or 257-4314.

Town Square Park charette

Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts