WORKING TOGETHER TOWARD A SHARED VISION FOR ANCHORAGE
Amidst the backdrop of the recession and the pandemic there is an an opportunity to re-imagine Anchorage, establish its purpose, core values, vision and road map for the future. Imagine Anchorage is a community-driven process to gain a better understanding of where we are today and where we want to go, and continuously take steps together toward our collective vision.
Anchorage is an exceptional city with world-class potential. It is home to about 290,000 people and 1,500 moose. It is the gateway to Alaska. It is the hub of the 49th state. 106 years since its founding, Anchorage is in many ways young, still developing, searching for its soul, establishing its identity, and defining what it wants to be. Now is the time to engage, to shape the future of Anchorage, the heartbeat of Alaska.
Located between the Chugach Mountains to the east and Cook Inlet to the west, the city is blessed with natural beauty and access to some of the best trails and outdoor recreation in the world. Yet it lacks the vibe of a mountain town nor does it feel like a coastal community.
Anchorage is one of the most ethnically diverse places in the world.
The indigenous population of Dena’ina Athabaskans have called this area home for millennia, often forgotten in the history books that state the ‘founding’ of the city was in 1914 as a railroad transportation hub for minerals and other natural resources.
The 9.0 earthquake in 1964 was a defining moment in our history and after the city was rebuilt it has grown dramatically in population and economic impact since, becoming the state’s commerce and transportation hub and the largest by far (nearly 40%) in population.
The land area of the municipality is larger than the state of Rhode Island, stretching from Girdwood to Eagle River.
The port was recently renamed the ‘Port of Alaska’, emphasizing the fact that the vast majority (approximately 90%) of the goods that come into Alaska go through the Anchorage port.
It has one of the busiest airports in the world, a bustling hub for private airplanes and a prime location for the global crossroads of air traffic.
Historically a strategic location for the military the joint military base of Elmendorf (Air Force) and Richardson (Army) near Eagle River has a considerable economic impact and owns a significant footprint of the land in the northeast part of the municipality.
Vehicle traffic composes a large percentage of the city’s air pollution, and the amount of time people spend in their vehicles is increasing faster than population growth. Public transportation exists in the form of bus service. There have been decades of studies and interest of a year-round, week-day commuter rail service on the existing train tracks from the outlying suburban communities of Eagle River, Palmer and Wasilla (over 14,000 people commute daily).
At a latitude of 61 degrees North the city sits at the front lines of climate change, with arctic amplification the change is nearly three times the average rate. It is the only community in Alaska with a local climate action plan. Anchorage has undertaken some small sustainability projects, such as promoting solar panels in neighborhoods and capturing methane from the landfill. However, the Municipality has not addressed its big climate impact activities such as transportation emissions and land use patterns.
The Anchorage School District provides K-12 education to over 45,000 students in nearly 90 schools, with thriving language immersion and open optional programs. It is ranked as the most diverse school district in Alaska, yet room for improvement in academic (reading, math and science) performance.
There are two universities located in midtown: the University of Alaska Anchorage (about 12,000 students) and Alaska Pacific University (around 500 students). UAA has suffered from lack of state support; funding to the University of Alaska system have totaled more than $100 million over the last eight years.
For people looking to set down roots in Anchorage, finding community can be a challenge. Historically, the population has been largely transient, coming for the experience of Alaska or high-paying oil jobs. Therefore, for a city of nearly 300,000 there is a relatively small number of people committed to the long-term vibrancy of the community. There are communities within the community based on activities, such as sports and recreation, arts and culture, nonprofits, charitable associations, and faith-based organizations, but there is no central hub, entity or organization whose purpose is to bring these communities – and all Anchorage residents – together.
Now is the time to engage, to pull together to shape the future of Anchorage, the heartbeat of Alaska. There is an an opportunity to re-imagine Anchorage, establish its purpose, core values, vision and road map for the future.
What are Anchorage’s strengths?
What are its weaknesses?
What are its opportunities?
What are its challenges and/or threats?
What is the community’s purpose?
What are the community’s core values?
What is our collective vision of the future?