Urban agriculture center could take root in Downtown Anchorage by fall

Downtown Assembly member Christopher Constant has a bold proposal for 15-acres of empty land in Downtown Anchorage. He wants to turn the spot at Gambell Street and 3rd Avenue, the former site of the Alaska Native Hospital, into an urban agriculture center designed to provide education and employment opportunities while producing herbs and greens for the Anchorage market.

The proposal, an amendment to a five-year management plan for the Heritage Land Bank, is set to go before the assembly next week. Constant told Alaska Public Radio that this amendment doesn’t directly do anything to have the plan approved, but does send a message that he hopes will result in a positive use for the fallow lot.

The idea of turning the property into a productive urban farm is something Constant has had on his mind for some time, but his April Assembly win put him in a position to make it happen. In a conversation this afternoon, he outlined high hopes and visions of a peony and dahlia demonstration area, herbs, and native botanicals in addition to more traditional crops and, of course, a farmers market at which to sell the bounty.

“It’s hard for people to oppose,” he says, noting the benefits to food security and the idea of providing much needed skills and employment opportunities for homeless workers. “The biggest opposition statements I hear are ‘You’re not going to solve the homeless problem with a farm,’ to which I respond that it’s not a silver bullet. It’s about many, many small things adding up to a big thing.”

If the amendment passes on Tuesday, as he believes it will, the goal is to complete soil testing this summer and have a cover crop of rye planted by the end of the season

A number of potential non-profit and private sector partners, such as Anchorage hydroponic business Vertical Harvest, have already been contacted, but Constant is eager to hear from the community and find out what they might to bring to the table to make this a reality.

“We don’t have a business plan, we don’t have an operator, but we have lots of interest and a small team that can catalyze the resources,” Constant said over messenger today.

If you’re interested in more information or discussing how you might be able to help, e-mail Christopher Constant at constantc@muni.org.

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