Sunday, November 15, 2009

Crowne Plaza - Midtown Anchorage

Well it has arrived. Crowne Plaza, formerly the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, opened its first Alaska hotel in Midtown around early fall. Unlike the uninspired flood of Midtown cardboard box hotels that sprouted throughout Midtown in the last ten years, the Crowne Plaza stands out -- and in a good way too. While its competitors use material that make the building look like it's made of cardboard, the Crowne Plaza features a facade of brick on the bottom half, and concrete on the top complete with arch ornamentation on the roof, an uneven facade of uniform windows, and a setback on the bottom after the first floor. The result -- a charming early 20th century style hotel that puts its surroundings, particularly the neighboring hotels nearby, to absolute shame. For those not familiar with the location, the new hotel sits a spitting distance from the also fairly new Marriot and Motel 6 -- both of which continue the ugly hotel style that should be greeted by the city with as much hostility as big box stores. The good news -- the Crowne Plaza sits on the corner of the block thus blocking the ugly hotels from view. Unfortunently the intersection of C Street and Int'l Airport Road and the area around it has a long ways to go, which brings me to another question: why here? Of all the places the Crowne Plaza and its developers could have chosen, why the southern industrial end of Midtown? Why Midtown in general, for that matter? When people think of Midtown, all that can be thought up is old 70s strip malls, parking lots, and a couple of 70s boxy highrises here and there. Southern Midtown, where the Crowne Plaza can be found, is even worse. To the south of the hotel sits self storage warehouses, industrial lots, auto-related businesses, oh and a carpet store. To the north, you have the Vomit Strip -- Applebee's, TGI Fridays, and the centerpiece of all things horrifying, the Golden Corral All-You-Can-Eat pigslop barn. For those not familiar with Golden Corral, it's the one place in which everyone around you weighs over 250 lbs., the food tastes like it came out of a microwave after being shipped in from its hq in North Carolina, and candy corn among other sweets can literally be scooped on to your plate like it was mash potatos -- even the old Royal Fork buffet knew not to go this far. Outside, the parking lot is more than twice the footprint of the building, ultra bright white lights shine down making it look like a car dealership at night, and a electric scroll sign that looks like it came from the 80s greets you and all other passing motorists on C Street. But now I'm going off topic... but I had to get my Golden Corral rant off my chest -- again.

Anyways back on topic, instead of being in its present location, I would have much preferred that the Crowne take the place of the Clairion Suites in Downtown -- another of those unoriginal and ugly slanted roof buildings. Besides fitting it with the more respectable Downtown, the Crowne hotel at that location would be across the street from the Federal Building, diagnal from the Anchorage Museum including the new museum wing, across the street from Nordstrom, and three blocks from the Performing Arts Center, and the Dena'ina convention center. Choices in dining include Humpy's, Bernie's Bungalow, Crush Bistro + Cellar, and Sullivan's Steakhouse among the surrounding blocks not to mention Orso's, the Brewhouse, Sack's, and the Snowgoose within the next couple of blocks after that. As stated earlier, the current dining options nearby the actual location of the Crowne in Midtown are Applebee's, Golden Corral, and TGI Fridays. Oh, forgot Ihop too -- can't forget that. Civically speaking, the Loussac Library is close by, but not close enough considering the walking to be done along the large stretched blocks made up of lonley narrow sidewalks runing next to 45 mph traffic and parking lots. Plus among the civic institutions, the library is really the last thing any visitor really cares to be close to. Among the cultural attractions, ummm... I guess the Alaska Bush Company strip club? It's just down the road in fact, next to the auto repair shop.

In the end, the Crowne Plaza hotel is a welcome addition to the cityscape. Its unique architecture is not only a first among the series of midsized hotels, but also a first in Anchorage architecture in general. Its location however is a testament to the haywire zoning and planning of this city.

what sits directly across from the hotel:

where the hotel should have instead been located: