PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) — Palmer city leaders are hoping to bring new life and attract new business with a plan to revitalize downtown. They're calling for input from the community on what that future might look like.
In 2016, the Mat-Su Borough, in partnership with Palmer and Wasilla, was awarded a $550,000 EPA grant to assess and clean up old industrial sites. As part of that grant, Palmer was allocated $55,000 to put together a plan to revitalize downtown, and now they're in the beginning stages of implementing that plan.
"Palmer has a real historical presence, especially in the valley since 1935," said Director of Community Development, Brad Hanson. "It's a quiet and quaint community with deep rooted values that are good for family, and I think those qualities just need to be enhanced, and promoted,"
Small town charm, unique history, and a tight-knit community are what drew Kelly Turney and his wife to bring their business, Alaska Picker, to downtown Palmer.
"This is home for us. Even though this may not be where we lay our head at night, we are fully vested in this community," Turney said. "So for us, the opportunity to come to Palmer and to be a part of the fun little things that you can do here, and the fact that you can know all of your neighbors and walk around town very easily. You really don't have any other place like it."
Turney says he's excited to see what's in store for the future of the Matanuska Maid block in particular.
"One of the reasons that we came to the block is that we were basically the first new retail business in this block in almost 20 years of any size, and so, was it a risk? Absolutely. But was it worth it? Absolutely as well," he said.
Enhanced bike trails and walking paths, a new and improved green space, additional parking, and more community activities are all examples of ideas that could become a reality.
"Currently we have a lot of activities like parades and Friday Flings operate on Colony Way, and there's the Garden Gate Fair," Hanson said. "There's lots of activities downtown, and I think those provide a great economic enhancement to the businesses around here and so being a central spot for more of those types of activities is kind of a goal and an ambition for most people."
Turney says he'd like to see things like a meeting space, another hotel, or a green space, but most importantly he says, is that Palmer holds on to the charm that drew him there in the first place.
"People know what downtown Palmer is. They have a feel for it," Turney said. "They come for Colony Days, Colony Christmas. It has a lot of unique mom & pop shops which is really important, small business, and I hope even with the development of the Glenn Highway, and as Palmer continues to grow, that we keep that small town charm that we're known for."
A community meeting will be held Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Palmer Community Center, where residents are invited to learn more, ask questions, and voice some of their own ideas.