New ballot initiative hopes to kickstart Anchorage revitalization with sales tax

“Project ‘20s is a temporary 3% sales tax in Anchorage to fund specific capital projects. It automatically sunsets after five years.”

An effort reminiscent of the last major capital investment project in Anchorage – Project ’80s which facilitated the construction of the bulk of Anchorage’s civic buildings including the Alaska Center for the Performing arts (the PAC), Egan Civic & Convention Center, The Sullivan Arena, and the Anchorage Public Library (Loussac Library) is expected to appear on the April 2020 ballot.

The new ballot initiative group called Project ’20s is spearheaded by Moira Gallagher, the former director of AEDC’s Live. Work. Play. initiative. Not so coincidentally, Gallagher is also the granddaughter of the late former mayor, George M. Sullivan who initially proposed Project ’80s near the end of his last term in the late 1970s – the Sullivan Arena was named in his honor.

The structure of this proposal is similar to other successful implementations like the MAPS projects in Oklahoma City and Boise which incur no city debt and self-fund the intended public projects with temporary tax structures.

“The projects that will be funded through Project ‘20s are critical to making our community safe, taking care of the most vulnerable, and modernizing to attract talented workers and visitors to a world-class city”

The initiative proposes a specific set of projects, some of which focus on downtown revitalization in the 4th Avenue and Ship Creek areas.

Fourth Avenue Pedestrian Redesign

This effort will focus on widening sidewalks to allow for al fresco dining options for 4th Avenue restaurants as well as install ice-free infrastructure for safer winter walkability. Also included is a designation of “Arts District” for the area of 4th and G Street with a public art installation component. It remains to be seen if this vision will be consistent with mayoral candidate Forrest Dunbar’s vision of a 4th Avenue closed to vehicular traffic. It is worth noting, this block is subject to radical changes in the coming years which may threaten the viability of an arts district in the area, particularly due to the loss of Bivy Space which currently occupies one of the buildings likely to be demolished. The nearest contemporary art gallery is IGCA on D Street between 4th and 5th Avenue.

Mushing District

The stretch of 4th Avenue that has served as the site of the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race as well and the World Champion Sled Dog Race – a Fur Rendezvous event has been proposed for a designation as the Mushing District. The Iditarod is an international event that has served Anchorage well in bolstering winter visitor numbers. There is some value as a destination but the long-term viability of the events themselves in regard to climate change and public perception of dog mushing should be taken into consideration.

Ship Creek Promenade

This is something that should have been done decades ago, this area is already touched by thousands of visitors per year. It’s an industrial area but until recently hasn’t had a “cool industrial” feeling, just a hazardous one, along with the lack of walkability, it’s been largely unattractive for visitor activities. The area has seen one significant improvement this year, the renovation of the old steam power plant on Ship Creek. It’s not rusty anymore and all the windows have been replaced and modernized but most importantly, it doesn’t look like Chernobyl. The loss of Anchorage Community Works has dinged the cool factor but the relocation of The Boardroom, a co-working space, and potential brewery expansion(s) in the area should make up for it. Housing would be the next logical step but with the recently completed Ship Creek Trail and the aesthetics of living along the creek – it should be only a matter of time.

Town Square Park

The initiative includes funding for redevelopment of the Town Square Park according to the recently released master plan, stay tuned for an upcoming article that will address this item specifically.

Other projects include:

  • Hillside Fire Roads
  • Trail Improvements
  • Eagle River Fire Station
  • Winter City Project

April 2020

In an age where the workforce is increasingly deciding where to live based on quality of life (over job availability), the need to improve our image and ability to attract new residents is more important than ever. The election is three months away, the initiative will likely be well received by those that want to see Anchorage grow and prosper to become a world-class city but will it be enough?

It’s important to keep in mind that if approved, the individual projects will undergo scrutiny and will live or die by their own merit through the public process. will feature updated content related to Project ’20s as it becomes available and relevant.

Update: As of January 14th, 2020, Anchorage Project ’20s is no longer a valid ballot initiative for the April 2020 election. The assembly members who supported the measure will continue to work with Project ’20s in an effort to put it on the 2021 ballot.

2 thoughts on “New ballot initiative hopes to kickstart Anchorage revitalization with sales tax

  1. Show some results for the revenue currently being collected, until then don’t bother asking for more.

  2. The problem with this idea is Anchorage had money from the Pipeline during this time.
    Since then the Alaskan voters have decided to pay oil companies for every barrel of oil they extract from the North Slope.
    Fix that problem first then worry about “Anchorage revitalization[sic].”

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