On this soggy Monday morning, work crews followed through on plans to demolish the concrete fountain at Town Square as the city looks to reduce crime in the troubled downtown gathering place.
KTUU Photojournalist Rick Schleyer captured the scene, above.
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says the city will tear down a large concrete fountain in Town Square Park as part of an effort to improve public safety in the crime-ridden public space.
The 1980s-era fountain “hasn't worked for some time” and "it has become a barrier and a hiding spot," Berkowitz said during a late morning news conference in the park.
"We're going to take it down," he said.
Removal of the fountain will occur within the next few days, the mayor said. The hope is that lawbreakers, drunks and vagrants will have fewer places to congregate.
Conceived in the 1980s when the Performing Arts Center was built, the park has become a source of public safety complaints from nearby businesses that regularly deal with vandalism to families who are afraid to take young children to the park because of who or what they might encounter.
Joining Berkowitz at the press conference was Anchorage police captain Kenneth McCoy, Anchorage Downtown Partnership executive director Jamie Boring, and former legislator Andrew Halcro, who directs the Anchorage Community Development Authority.
In addition to the fountain removal, the city also hopes to reduce crime in Town Square by increasing patrols by police officers and school resource officers who are out of classrooms for the summer.
“This will be a joint effort with the community,” McCoy said.
Berkowitz said the Anchorage Downtown Partnership plans to beef up the number of public events in the park and will work with the Anchorage Community Development Authority (ACDA) to offer free parking nearby during certain times of the day to attract people to the park.
"This is the heartbeat of Anchorage," said Andrew Halcro, executive director of ACDA.
Berkowitz said removing the fountain and the other steps announced today are just the start of remaking Town Square into a place that is family-friendly and safe.
“We’ll take this one step at a time. Doing nothing is not an option,” the mayor said.
Previous public discussions about what to do with Town Square have included the option of leveling out some of the grassy hills within the park to make it easier for people to see what’s going on.
The option hasn’t been ruled out but the city isn’t ready to bulldoze the entire park at this stage, Berkowitz said.
“If the citizens feel that redesigning the park is needed, they’re welcome to do so,” he said.