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A love letter to downtown Anchorage

  • Author: Amanda Moser
    | Opinion
  • Updated: December 6, 2019
  • Published December 8, 2019

Downtown Anchorage is illuminated by the sunset on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019 in this view from Earthquake Park. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

I believe in downtown because I see the magic and wonder of our city center everyday. Although I see these things I know and love, I recognize that we have further to go and I am thrilled to be a part of an organization that is supporting, fostering, and cultivating that growth. Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd. (ADP) is committed to a clean, safe, vital downtown. From our Ambassadors who patrol the 120 blocks of the Downtown Improvement District, to our year-round events, which provide activation and vibrancy, we are moving downtown forward.

A strong downtown is critical to a successful Anchorage. Despite its relatively small share of Anchorage’s overall geography, downtown delivers a significant economic and community impact that benefits all of Anchorage. As the literal and figurative heart of Anchorage, our downtown represents and welcomes all residents and all visitors from all walks of life.

In downtown, moose bring their calves to wander our streets after the first snow. Downtown Anchorage lies within Dena’ina Elena (Dena’ina Country) and we honor and recognize the stewardship of the Dena’ina people. It’s where a little tent city near Ship Creek grew into the Alaska Railroad Company town, then the industry of World War II transformed it into the city we know today. It’s a dense hub of people working, playing and soon to be living—thanks to Elizabeth Place, Downtown Edge and Susitna Flats.

Our downtown is full of life year-round. Town Square Park bursts at the seams during Holiday Tree Lighting, as people travel from across Anchorage to kick off the holiday season. In the summer, crowds congregate in Town Square Park on Thursdays after work for live music, cold drinks and community. Every Dec. 31, the masses converge downtown as we reflect on the past year and herald the new year, all with music, friends and, of course, fireworks—downtown’s gift to all of Anchorage.

The Coastal Trail wraps downtown with fresh air and a constant sense of opportunity: a world-class escape to pink sunrises, green leaves, glowing mountains, and groomed snow trails that an Outsider could only dream about. Our quality of life is off the charts when it comes to the air we breathe, the water we drink and that view of Denali if you just lean a little to the left.

Our museum is world-class, showcasing artists that have been investigating, questioning and defining our relationship to Alaska. The Port of Alaska and the Alaska Railroad keep us connected to our industrial history, sending goods and people through our communities on blue-and-yellow trains that skirt the mud flats, rumbling office buildings on their way.

Downtown has a real and unique sense of place, whether it’s celebrating termination dust on the Front Range at the 20th-floor bar, getting double stamps for eating ice cream in below-freezing temperatures, or summer’s first hot dog on 4th Avenue. Reindeer run in the streets during the Fur Rondy, sled dogs mush past 4th Avenue’s screaming crowds at Iditarod, and through it all, you can still get the Kodiak Benedict at Anchorage’s best breakfast, 17 years running. Our Performing Arts Center is the only place in the state where our kids get to see Broadway shows, on the same stage where they go head-to-head with their peers in the state spelling bee.

And of course, downtown is not perfect. Like any city, we are constantly working to make it (and all of Anchorage) a cleaner, safer place, which is the work Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd., is committed to everyday. We keep moving our city forward, from what it is to what we hope it can be. But part of building a great city is recognizing and celebrating what’s already good about a place, learning what not to change, so future generations know where they came from, and what we value. That’s what a downtown does: it belongs to everybody, and it tells the story, imperfect and remarkable, of who we are.

Amanda Moser is the executive director of Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd.

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