Q & A WITH DOWNTOWN EXPERTS

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Last week, Facebook fans asked questions about downtown Fairbanks on the Downtown Association of Fairbanks Facebook page, as part of the Alyeska 21 Days of Solstice. We were able to come up with responses for most of the questions, and offer them here. From the ridiculous to the historical and rather practical- read on to learn more about your downtown! Thanks to all those who participated!

When will the new bridge open up?

The plan is for summer of 2013 according to the latest from the friendly folks at the Fairbanks Metropolitan Area Transportation System, but we’ll keep you updated if that changes!

Where was the Big I originally located and what was it called – the whole name?

According to one of our favorite Big I patrons, the bar was first called “The International Hotel & Lounge” (or “something like that”) and has always been in its current location, though was shut down for awhile because of flooding. When it reopened after the flood, it was renamed the Big I and no longer offered hotel services.

Will the empty buildings downtown ever re-open with new shops? I would love to come shop downtown more often if there was more for me to shop/eat at..

We’re working on it! Plans for 2012 include a Great Space Giveaway and online listing of available rentals and real estate, to make it easier for new businesses to find a downtown home. Stay tuned!

How awesome is downtown gonna become?

110% awesome. Awesome with a capital “A.”

Where is the best online resource to find a list of ALL activities going on downtown? I seem to miss far too many fun things that are happening there.

Check out the calendar of events at downtownfairbanks.com- chock full of winter solstice events this time of year.

Can we throw a huge Block Party with K-WOLF 98.1 on the Bridge to nowhere next summer…please we’ll be good , promise

SUCH a good idea! KWOLF and DTA really do need to party together more often. Actually, we looked into the bridge idea once and it’s a logistical nightmare. But if you want to bring that party to the Plaza, it’s on!

How many coffee shops are downtown?

By our calculations: four full-fledged coffee shops, three coffee huts, and a half dozen cafes or restaurants with a full espresso bar. Find the full list at downtownfairbanks.com under “Downtown Guide.”

Who is the unofficial mayor of downtown Fairbanks?

Our nominees include Bob Eley, Dermot Cole, Sheri Olesen, Isaiah Mangum, and the Fairbanks First moose mascot, but we feel it should be a democratic process…

What’s the best “go to source” for downtown activities & sales?

You can check our website periodically (downtownfairbanks.com) or sign up for our biweekly newsletter, The Downtowner, on the home page to stay in the loop. We also post lots of news and events to Facebook and Twitter.

What downtown shops offer wi-fi connections?

Julia’s Solstice Café (Driveway Street), Alana’s Espresso Escape (Co-Op Plaza), River City Café (2nd Ave), Arctic Rose Sandwich Shop (6th Ave), the Big I Pub & Lounge (North Turner Street), Bobby’s Downtown (2nd Ave), and Bridgewater Café (1st Ave- summer only) offer free WiFi.

What is the best place to go to for kids/family activities?

Glow Putt is one of our favorite kid-friendly downtown venues, with glow-in-the-dark mini-golf surrounded by neon jungle creatures. Dance Theatre Fairbanks is popular with kids and parents who want to be involved with an ongoing activity. The Fairbanks Community Museum is hosting holiday open houses on the 17th and 21st with treat bags and visits with Mrs. Claus. Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center often
has kid-friendly films, workshops, or crafts- this weekend they’re showing “The Muppet Christmas Carol” and serving hot cocoa.

What are some of the upcoming big events? And where might I find info on those?

Photos with Santa are every Saturday at River City Café (12-3pm); Sing-It-Yourself Messiah is on Saturday at First Presbyterian Church (3pm); the Fairbanks Community Museum is having an open house with hot cocoa and gifts for kids on Winter Solstice; and If Only… a Fine Store has a series of live music in their shop. These and more downtown events are available on an online calendar at downtownfairbanks.com.

Where there be sled rides with Santa and meeting with Santa this year?

You can meet with Santa (and take photos!) every Saturday at River City Café (2nd Ave) from noon to 3pm, and on Winter Solstice from 5-8pm. Mrs. Claus will be at the Fairbanks Community Museum on Saturday, Dec. 17th from noon to 4pm.

What is the oldest building in Downtown Fairbanks?

Some of the century-old cabins in the downtown Fairbanks almost definitely take the cake on this one, though Immaculate Conception Church (built in 1904) is one of the oldest non-residential buildings.

Will the downtown market return this summer?

You bet- we had too much fun and received too much great feedback to quit! In fact, to let you in on a secret- we’ve been asked to expand to twice a week…. check back to our website in late spring for details.

What street projects will affect Downtown next summer?

We’ll have a better idea of street projects affecting downtown after the New Year- check back to our website at downtownfairbanks.com for details!

Will John bartend at the Big I wearing a tu-tu?

Not sure, but love that we now have an excuse to pose the question.

How many 5k/10k events are there downtown?

No 5K or 10K events currently exist downtown, but we do have an annual Visitor Industry Walk (3 mi) and rumor has it that next summer, downtown will host a Criterium (type of bicycle race).

What’s the latest news on the Polaris building?

Following an August work session between City Council and Marc Marlow, the owner of the Polaris, the City is considering offering further subsidies and fee waivers to fund its development, but no word as of yet on whether this will happen or not.

Which downtown business has been open the longest?

We’re going to give this one to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, in business in some form since 1903, and which used to occupy the Lathrop Building before moving ‘cross the river to its current location.

What new and exciting event will happen downtown this summer?!

A Downtown Criterium will happen in 2012- it’s a fast and crazy bicycle race that should be as much fun for spectators as for the athletes.

How many calories in a 12 oz. egg nog latte?

Not enough to stop you (or us) from drinking one. Or several.

What do you have in store for January? Something to break up the cold and dark?

We’ll kick it off with another fabulous First Friday and we hear talk that Chartreuse will host another grand opening after remodeling the shop and bringing a whole new line of inventory (tease, tease, what will it be!?)

Where can I find a map of all First Friday locations?

Addresses and names of participating downtown venues are published each month at downtownfairbanks.com, and should help you figure out how to hit as many as you can in one night.

What road construction projects will affect downtown in 2011?

We have it on good word from the Dept. of Public Works that no major road projects are scheduled in the downtown core for 2011. Sidewalk upgrades to make walkways ADA compliant are scheduled for 6th Avenue, Lacey Street (south of 5th Avenue), and farther south of 8th Avenue.

How is the “Looking for Love” project going with the Polaris Building?

The geniuses behind this project (not us) cares most about inspiring public discourse on this vacant space. We’ve seen plenty of that this year (and you’ve obviously spotted it) so we hereby deem it a great success.

Who painted the mural of the raven?

Mark Leon, a fabulous local artist who also contributed to the peacock mural on the side of Chartreuse.

Is there a place to recycle downtown?

The Downtown Market from June- Sept. has a recycling dropoff courtesy of Project Fairbanks, but there is no winter collection site. Used clothing can be dropped off at Alaska Rag Co. or deposited in their bin in Sadler’s parking lot.

When do I find out if I am a winner or not on this 21 days of solstice?

We post the winner of each day’s contest the following morning at the bottom of the comment thread on Facebook, and tag the winner.

Who is the genius behind Downtown Fairbanks?

We’d have to argue it’s E.T. Barnette, since he accidentally landed here and spurred the development of an entire city. Accidental brilliance is our favorite kind.

Is there a list/collection of all the fabulous locally owned shops that are in the downtown area?

One of the best resources is the annual Downtown Guide, available to both visitors and residents. It includes a street map and descriptions of all the downtown businesses that are members of the Downtown Association and have chosen to be in the guide. You can find the online version at downtownfairbanks.com under “Downtown Guide.”

How long ago was Soapy Smith’s established?

According to their chef, this is Soapy Smith’s eighteenth year in business. That’s a pretty serious downtown legacy!

What is that new shop in the bottom part of the Northward Building?

From peeking through the glass, its seems Del Ray’s will be a coffee shop/bakery/café. Excited to learn more about this new venture ourselves!

Should the borough/city do a public parking plan for downtown?

Why, as a matter of fact, three DTA staffers just recently attended a superb master’s thesis defense, wherein it was highly recommended that downtown and the city do just that. Maybe it’s time to pass this suggestion along?

When are we going to see ice skating on the river downtown?

Feel free to build us a rink- we would love that! Otherwise, it might be a few years until we are able to get that rolling…

Is there a downtown map? I moved here recently and would love to get more acquainted with the downtown shops.

We print a downtown map each year, called the 2011 Downtown Guide, and it’s available in print at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center and most downtown businesses. It’s bright and colorful, with detailed descriptions of cafes, shops, restaurants, and salons. You can find the online version at downtownfairbanks.com (no map, just listings).

Any new businesses opening before summer?

Right now it looks like Del Ray’s (coffee shop/bakery/café) will be opening on the first floor of the Northward Building, and Chartreuse is planning to re-open with a new line of inventory. And there’s a vacant space in the Co-Op Plaza with big, shiny windows just begging for a new retailer to step in…

What’s going on downtown for winter solstice? And where’s Santa?

Santa is at River City Café on 2nd Ave this Saturday and on Winter Solstice, and Mrs. Claus will be at the Fairbanks Community Museum on Saturday, as well. Check out our online calendar at downtownfairbanks.com for a full list of events.

Where can we find out about downtown charity events this holiday season and ways to volunteer?

Great question- a few places that you may want to contact regarding volunteer work include the Stone Soup Kitchen, the Fairbanks Community Museum, or the Street Outreach and Advocacy Center.

How long has the Co-op Plaza been operating in its building?

The Co-Op Plaza was built in 1927 by Cap Lathrop. It was one of the first concrete structures in Fairbanks, and skeptics thought the concrete would crumble apart in the winter. Luckily, it’s still here!

Will there be photos with Santa’s reindeer this year?

We aren’t hosting photos with reindeer this year, but photos with Santa are still available on Saturday and on Winter Solstice at River City Café (2nd Ave).

Will there be dog sled rides available during the 21 days of solstice?

No dog sled rides this year- but plenty of other events including photos with Santa. Find out more on the online calendar at downtownfairbanks.com

Besides the parking garage, where is the best FREE parking spot available for a good long shopping spree at downtown stores?

We have a few favorite spots that are close to downtown shopping- one is in Sadler’s parking lot on Cushman Street, and another is in the parking lot of Immaculate Conception Church across the river- just takes a short walk over the pedestrian bridge. On weekends, the courthouse parking lot is another good choice, and you can park on the streets for as long as you like.

How do I find out what’s going on in downtown Fairbanks the REST of the year?

The best way to keep up with events and news in downtown Fairbanks is to sign up for our newsletter The Downtowner on the home page of our website- downtownfairbanks.com, or check out the online calendar of events.

What was the name of the Chinese Restaurant that used to be located at the top of the Polaris Building?

The restaurant was named The Tiki Cove. And we’ve heard great stories about it.

Is the parking garage heated?

The parking garage is not heated, but it does have plug-ins. Plus the garage is offering free holiday parking from 11am-2pm, M-F throughout the holiday season, so it won’t cost you a dime.

When you google first fridays downtown and you go to your site, why is it not automatically the next first friday, instead of some random friday?

Haha, good question. We don’t usually post details on the next First Friday until that week, because it takes us until then to compile the info from businesses and write it up. That’s probably why you’re seeing First Friday Google results from previous months instead of January 2012.

Is it still free parking on Second Avenue?

Yes- Second Avenue has free two-hour parking along the street.

Where is River City?

Glad you asked! River City Café is on 2nd Ave, between Big Ray’s and Alaskan Gold Rush Fine Jewelry.

Will the Association hold events that I can bring my family to and enjoy? I have enjoyed everything so far but would really like something to attend in the winter with my two children.

Absolutely! You’re right- downtown tends to be rich with nightlife and dining, but isn’t as kid-friendly as it could be. Photos with Santa continue this Saturday and on Winter Solstice at River City Café. The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center hosts kids’ films on a regular basis, and will be showing “The Muppet Christmas Carol” this Saturday at noon with hot chocolate.

When is Lavelle’s going to do their expansion?

Hmm.. well maybe we can put in a good word with the owner to speed things up… 😉

What is First Friday?

First Friday is like a city-wide gallery opening held on the First Friday of each month. Restaurants, art galleries, cafes, and shops throughout downtown Fairbanks feature different artists, and Fairbanksans walk from place to place to check out the artwork, enjoy live music, and sample appetizers. Check downtownfairbanks.com each month for a list of participating businesses.