How One Downtown Cleaned Up a Park on a Shoestring

In downtown Anchorage, AK, Town Square Park was once a hub of antisocial activities. Through sustained efforts, the Anchorage Downtown Partnership turned the public space into a hub for community gatherings.

The success story shows downtown leaders can make a difference without a big budget. Town Square Park was transformed with attention rather than a major financial commitment. “In downtown Anchorage, we’re looking for underused or problem spaces that have fallen by the wayside — places where people may not feel comfortable going — and we’re taking these spaces back,” says Rosie Frankowski, placemaking coordinator for the Anchorage Downtown Partnership.

To achieve that goal, the downtown organization took over the Town Square Park by hosting more than 140 activities. “It worked amazingly well,” Frankowski says. “We had yard games, small concerts, and buskers performing, as well as a weekly Live after Five program.”

Spurred on by that early success, the Anchorage Downtown Partnership expanded its activities. The park added a community piano, and the Partnership worked with the Anchorage Library to bring in a book cart with rotating titles. During the summer, there are also free dance and fitness classes.

At first, the Anchorage Downtown Partnership had no budget for placemaking activities. So downtown leaders looked for inexpensive ways to host events and to partner with other organizations, such as Anchorage Parks & Recreation.

More on activating Town Square Park, creating downtown gateways, and converting commercial space to residential appears in the December issue of Downtown Idea Exchange. Click to learn more about Downtown Idea Exchange and other resources for revitalizing downtowns and commercial corridors.

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