Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Downtown surface lots expected to see development

A congressional bill expected to be signed by President Obama includes a provision that allows the Municipality to sell five parcels of land in Downtown Anchorage that previously had restrictions placed on them. This includes the land beneath the Egan Convention Center on 5th and E, which formerly was only allowed to be used for civic purposes. The ADN has an article on the story today in which mayor Sullivan pointed to the nearby Anchorage Marriott tower and noted that a development such as that would be possible on the lots being sold by the city. Three of the lots to be sold are in the area of 7th and I Street, which as you may know is in bad need of development as it is currently overrun by surface parking lots. Once upon a time these asphalt blocks had small cottages with gardens and lawns, but while a few remain today, much of the neighborhood was knocked out during the oil boom years of the 1970s and 80s causing much uproar among Anchorageites and prompting historical preservation. Anyways, for at least the last decade I have imagined a better Downtown Anchorage in which the empty blocks on the western end of the townsite are filled with five or six story apartment/condo blocks with commercial retail on the ground floor facing the street. The Lofts, formerly a hotel on 4th Avenue that was converted to appeal to young professionals, is testament to the fact that there is a market for downtown living, and it's pretty obvious that a good unit in a good building in the heart of downtown is rare. You can live along the edges of the downtown townsite, such as Bootleggers Cove, South Addition, or Government Hill, but finding a living arrangement within the townsite bounded by 9th Avenue to the south, L Street to the west, 3rd Avenue to the north, and C Street to the east is quite difficult. Three years ago when I was in Antwerp, Belgium, I took this photo of residential buildings that I thought were a good example of what I'd like to see in west downtown. Finally I have an excuse to use this photo xP

taken in Antwerp, Belgium. Great city btw, worth a visit


Keegan Lucas said...

An aerial of downtown Anchorage is both depressing and exciting, for all of the opportunity all of those surface lots represent. The infrastructure is there for thousands of residential units downtown, and a new future of northern urban vibrancy. Pretty exciting canvas for future development! Great post.

marcus said...

Thanks. Yea I remembered a few years ago some of us urbanist nerds were comparing downtown aerials of our home cities on a message board and a number of them were appalled at the status of Anchorage. It's quite something to have such a reaction considering that these other forum users were from cities like Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix, and other places that are guilty of surface lot abundance themselves. But then again those places have made some progress in the last 30 years. But yes, only then did it register with me how much behind we are. The mayor says the lots will be sold with the condition that they be developed quickly and not just sit there for market speculation. So hopefully we'll see something sooner rather than later.