President Barack Obama will fly into Anchorage on Monday and speak that evening at the GLACIER Conference in the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center downtown, which means some Anchorage residents will have to deal with road and office closures.
On Thursday, Anchorage police and transportation officials announced numerous street closures in the downtown area through the end of the GLACIER conference in the middle of next week.
The closures will mostly be in the areas immediately surrounding the Dena'ina Center on Monday, and the Hotel Captain Cook from Monday to Wednesday. Anchorage City Hall will close at 1 p.m. on Monday. At a news conference Thursday morning, however, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and other officials said they expect it to be mostly business as usual downtown next week.
"Businesses are going to remain open, disruption will be minimal and our opportunities to show off our city are going to be rather profound," Berkowitz said.
Police Chief Mark Mew said there will be some places where people can't drive, park or walk, though he said walking access will be "the least restrictive." The city traffic engineer, Stephanie Mormilo, pleaded with residents to pay attention to posted signs.
"If not, there's likely to be a well-dressed man telling you to go somewhere else," Mormilo said.
The president's security team had been tight-lipped about when and where road closures may happen, leaving city and state officials -- and downtown businesses -- guessing about impacts to vehicle and pedestrian traffic during the presidential visit.
Businesses close to the closure areas said Thursday that they weren't too worried.
"It's going to be a lot busier than normal, I'm sure," said Brian Minderman, owner of Alaska's Gourmet Subs just north of the Dena'ina Center. "Looking forward to it."
Karin Johnson, who owner of Dark Horse Coffee next to the sandwich shop*, said she planned to avoid car traffic entirely on Monday by riding her bike to work. She said there might be a few customers missing if any state offices closed -- but that there would be "more than that" in new customers at the Dena'ina Center for the conference.
Mormilo, the traffic engineer, noted during the news conference that there will still be foot traffic allowed on the north side of the Dena'ina Center, and access to the coffee and sandwich shop.
"And there's still beer at McGinley's," Mew interjected, referring to the pub at the corner of Seventh Avenue and G Street.
At Snow City Cafe, down the street from the Captain Cook, managers this week rolled out a new menu topped with items like "the Obamalet," with the ingredient "barakoli," and the "Kale to the Chief" salad.
Who came up with the idea? According to owner Laile Fairbairn, it was Berkowitz -- a part-owner in the restaurant and a notorious punner. Fairbairn said she did veto Berkowitz's suggestion of using "Michellots," in place of "shallots." She said the restaurant is hoping for a visit from the commander-in-chief.
"We hope (Obama) knows we would love to see him, and if he would come by, that would be awesome," Fairbairn said.
But Fairbairn added that she did expect business to dip a bit next week because of the street closures.
"We'll just see how it goes," she said.
Numerous state offices are located downtown, and it wasn't clear Thursday afternoon whether there will be closures or limited hours. Tanci Mintz, state leasing and facilities manager for the Department of Administration, said the commissioner's office was still preparing a document outlining plans for state offices during the presidential visit.
She said the department hopes to release the document later Thursday or on Friday morning.
Bus service downtown will not be affected, Mormilo said, though some staging areas will be slightly modified around the transit center. Mormilo also said the city will be placing bags on top of parking meters starting on Friday, to give people plenty of notice where parking will be off-limits.
As far as law enforcement downtown, Mew emphasized that police aren't declaring a new "state of affairs," but he said people should think about avoiding "unwanted attention" amid a heightened security presence. He said police activities would be fluid.
Road and pedestrian closures could change with little notice. For the latest information, including closure maps, go to the Anchorage Municipal Traffic Department's webpage at www.anchorageroads.org, or follow them on Twitter at @Ancroads.
Below are maps and the list of closures released on Thursday.
Anchorage closures during presidential visit
City Hall will close at 1 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31.
Streets closed to traffic Monday, Aug. 31, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.:
• F Street from Sixth Avenue to Eighth Avenue
• G Street from Sixth Avenue to Ninth Avenue. (The parking garage on G Street near Seventh Avenue will still be accessible to the public.)
• Eighth Avenue between F and H streets
• Seventh Avenue between F and G streets
Pedestrian closures for Monday, Aug. 31:
• Eighth Avenue between F and G streets
• G Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues
• F Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues
• The north sidewalk of Seventh Avenue between G and F streets will be open to the public.
Closures around the Hotel Captain Cook
All closures between 8 a.m. Monday, Aug. 31, and 12 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2:
• Fourth Avenue between I and K streets
• I Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues
• K Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues
• Westbound traffic on Fifth Avenue between H and K streets may be reduced to one lane.
• I Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues
• Fourth and Fifth avenues between I and K streets will have restricted pedestrian access.
* Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Karin Johnson as an employee at Dark Horse Coffee. Johnson is the owner of the business.