The Anchorage Downtown Partnership (ADP) wants more businesses to invest in downtown. That was part of the non-profit’s message to the audience at the Chamber of Commerce Make it Monday forum.

ADP marketing director Penny Smythe said the problem plaguing the area right now is perception: People think it’s unsafe or think there’s a lack of parking but Smythe said that’s generally not the case.

"I think what we have going for us that a lot of other parts of town don't is a walkability component and connection from business to business to business and we hands down beat out other parts of town because of that,” Smythe said.

She said new small businesses like Wild Scoops and Tequila 61 have made their mark on downtown and really become part of the community.

Tequila 61 marketing director Serena Jones said the restaurant offers up modern Mexican cuisine with an Alaskan twist, like king salmon tacos. Jones said when they opened a year and a half ago they knew downtown was the place to do it.

"We like to say downtown is the beating heart of the city. And we love the vitality and sense of community that comes with being downtown,” Jones said.

The eatery brings more than food to the neighborhood too.

“We’re trying to bring some of the culture of Tequila 61 to downtown, such as, we had a Day of the Dead celebration, art classes, we're having a crafters market with local Alaskan artists,” Jones explained.

From the municipality’s standpoint, making downtown more vibrant means more housing. Chris Schutte, director of economic and community development, said the lack of housing has been the biggest problem facing the area over the past 20 years.

"You have a lot of transient people that come for work and leave, come for dinner and leave, come for a show and leave to make this neighborhood really explode you need to have people here 24/7. Residential development has been missing and will really help turn the corner for this neighborhood,” Schutte said.

Safety is another top priority for ADP. Executive director Jamie Boring laid out his eight-step safety plan at the Make it Monday forum that included measures like more safety ambassadors and adding foot patrol police officers.

Smythe said ADP is also working on “branding” the downtown area. The goal is to come up with a cohesive plan to connect businesses to their community.

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