Have you been to downtown Anchorage lately? Like everything else in this world, it feels a little different right now. Without live music, performing arts programming, community celebrations and many professionals working from home, it’s a bit quieter, and a bit emptier.
As we experience the economic effects of COVID-19 collectively, we must remember that this isn’t a permanent state. But if we want our community to come out on the other side thriving, now is a critical time to continue to invest in these spaces that we share.
My choice to invest in property in downtown Anchorage, and in east downtown specifically, was made in part because of the organizations working every day to ensure downtown is clean, safe and vital. The Anchorage Downtown Partnership’s Downtown Improvement District covers 120 blocks from 1st to 9th Avenue, and I Street to Gambell. The Partnership was created by a vote of the property owners of downtown to pay for these extra services, and every 10 years, they must vote to renew it; we are now at that 10-year mark.
In this district, the organization has been instrumental in keeping downtown Anchorage’s sidewalks clean as decreased foot traffic draws attention away from the daily upkeep of the neighborhood. Its downtown maintenance and safety ambassadors patrol the streets nearly 24/7, responding to calls from businesses and proactively cleaning up waste and graffiti.
The organization also facilitated street closures so restaurants were able to serve customers outdoors amid indoor dining restrictions, activated public spaces with masked and socially distanced events, and has been a steadfast advocate on the municipal level for the interests of downtown. As a property owner, this additional support and attention to where I’ve invested is invaluable.
Every city’s downtown sets the tone for visitors, newcomers and even residents. It’s often the first place people see when they visit, and if we want a welcoming downtown, we have to make it that way. The good news is that people are already doing this work.
So the next time you visit a park downtown with your family, listen to local music at Live After Five, or watch the fireworks on New Year’s Eve, consider that this vibrancy doesn’t come from nothing. It happens because we, as a community, choose to invest in our downtown because it’s for all of us. It happens because organizations like ADP plan year-round programming for the community to enjoy for free. Events like these make downtown a dynamic place the community wants to gather, and in turn make downtown a neighborhood where businesses want to be. This directly benefits the investment values of downtown property owners, which has a citywide return on investment.
We don’t yet know what winter will look like, or when we’ll be able to return to a sense of normalcy. But we can’t let that stop us from investing in our city, and working to keep Anchorage thriving for years to come. For this reason and many more I am joining other property owners in downtown and voting to renew the Downtown Improvement District, I hope you will join me.
Downtown Anchorage is not without its challenges, but that’s no reason for us to stop working to improve it. Our city is what we make it, and it’s critical that we continue to invest in its future.
Mark Begich is a former U.S. senator and also served as mayor of Anchorage.
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