Downtown Fairbanks has seen a lot of improvement in the past 20 years. It’s cleaner, seems relatively safe, appears more inviting and is brighter in the fall and winter. The effort by so many people over those long years has indeed born success.
But, as always, there’s more to do. A city’s downtown should be forever in a state of transformation. It’s how you keep people coming back after you’ve gotten them interested.
With that in mind, it’s good to see a process underway for developing a new plan for the city center. Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Karl Kassel earlier this year put together a group of 10 people to help with the plan, and community meetings are a part of the program.
The idea at the moment is to determine what type of downtown people want. That in itself is significant task.
The first of the public meetings was held Wednesday and was the first public part of what is to be a year-long effort. Planners from the borough and from the city of Fairbanks attended to provide advice and answer questions. Government officials, members of commissions and business and visitor organizations were invited with the aim of getting ideas on such subjects as transportation, housing, commerce, culture and the natural environment.
It’s been a few years since the last downtown plan, Vision Fairbanks, fell apart. The Borough Assembly rejected the plan’s recommended new zoning classifications in 2011. Residents and businesses disagreed with several other components of the plan, too, such as changing one-way streets to two-way streets and putting a traffic roundabout in downtown.
The assembly repealed the full Vision Fairbanks plan in July. Now we’re on to the new approach.
The borough government is taking the lead on this because it has authority on matters of community planning and zoning. But the drive for a new downtown plan does, so far, have the support of city Mayor Jim Matherly.
Downtown Fairbanks is a location that should be inviting year-round, even on those 40-below days of January. Making it a desired destination, in whatever season, should be a continual process. Fortunately for Fairbanks, this community has plenty of people up to the task.
— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,