For those just tuning in: The Borough Assembly will hold a public hearing on Vision Fairbanks this Thursday evening (Aug. 21) at 6:00. Be there, speak in favor of its adoption, and wear blue to show your support!
More details here.
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Following is a letter I’ve just sent to the members of our Borough Assembly:
Good Assembly Members,
If you read the News-Miner online, you probably see the disheartening comments from our citizenry about Vision Fairbanks. Many of them are cynical about the prospects of any revitalization efforts: to these people, the improvement of downtown Fairbanks is a lost cause, just another hole for local government to throw money into.
You can prove them wrong. It will require commitment.
My primary concern, frankly, is not the commercial success of downtown businesses. It is the establishment of quality civic space, where citizens will wish to spend time and where they may run into friends, meet people different from themselves, and develop a sense of common interest — the heart of community.
However, I know that such a space will not develop without a rich and successful mixture of recreational, civic, retail, and commercial attractions to bring people there to begin with. Businesses especially must be given a framework in which they can succeed if downtown is to attain the “critical mass” of people to make continued private investment profitable and quality civic space viable.
The safe money right now isn’t on small stores downtown; it’s on big-box retail at the periphery. Any business risking opening up a shop downtown would want to be assured that the ground it was built on, so to speak, would not soon start shifting. Were I a business owner, I would want to know that my customers had enough places to park, that they could walk safely and comfortably in the public space outside my store, that downtown was attractive enough for people to prefer it to the sterility and sameness of big-box retail, and that there were enough varied attractions that customers of other stores might want to loiter downtown long enough to find my store. Most important, I would want to know that these conditions would not easily change — that the governmental bodies charged with the creation and maintenance of public space would not pull the rug out from under me.
For Vision Fairbanks to succeed, we need private investment. Private investors want the promise of a stable environment. You, good Assembly members, can offer that — if you approve Vision Fairbanks not as a recommendation that could be ignored when convenient, but as a codified ordinance.
Businesses will locate downtown, if they know they can build on stable ground. Please give them a framework to let them succeed: approve Vision Fairbanks, and make it binding.