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Vision Fairbanks is not yet market-driven revitalization. It is a political process to set the stage for economic development. Coming almost two years after the Plan’s adoption, a series of votes and decisions by the City Council, Borough Assembly and FMATS will reveal our civic leaders’ attitude to economic development downtown.   

New Zones: On April 19, the City Council passed Resolution 4410, a government-to-government communication conditionally endorsing the new zone types proposed in Ordinance 2010-09. The following night, the Borough Planning Commission unanimously recommended Ordinance 2010-09 to the Borough Assembly with amendments. The new zone types await a hearing at the Borough Assembly sometime this summer.   

Roadway Improvements: Streets are vital to economic development. The Plan calls for two-way traffic on Cushman Street, wider sidewalks, and on-street parking to ease commerce by slowing traffic speeds, increasing convenient parking, making pedestrians feel safer behind a buffer of parked cars on a wider sidewalk that retailers will be glad to have fronting their business. This picture of “signature street” infrastructure is dependent on the traffic intersection planned on the north side of the Chena River, part of the Illinois Street Reconstruction Project.    As you may remember, on August 18, 2009, the FMATS Policy Committee dealt a blow to downtown revitalization. In a surprise move, FMATS voted to approve an intersection configuration on the north side of the Chena River that pre-dated by almost two years the Vision Fairbanks plan. (News-Miner stories from August 19 and August 25.) Importantly, this intersection calls for both the Cushman Street Bridge and the new Barnette Street Bridge to operate as one-way facilities.    

The City of Fairbanks contracted with Kittelson and Associates to determine if Vision Fairbanks’ signature street infrastructure can work with one-way Cushman and Barnette bridges. Kittelson’s draft report explains that indeed it does not work to have two-way streets leading to one-way bridges.   

What will happen now? The shape of Cushman Street and the fate of the state money devoted to investing in Cushman Street will be influenced by City Council and determined by FMATS.   

What you can do?  Join the Vision Fairbanks Work Group, the citizen committee helping to implement the Plan, which meets again at 4 PM May 11 in the Downtown Association of Fairbanks conference room, 410 Cushman Street.