CIHA's investments in Spenard will maintain the neighborhood's unique identity but improve its livability. Our past, present, and future investment in the neighborhood includes innovative developments, environmental efforts, and the transformation of community spaces.
The Story of Spenard
Though Spenard began as an independent city, today the neighborhood is one of Anchorage's most vibrant communities. Spenard got its start as a lumber camp during the construction of the Alaska Railroad. During the oil boom of the early 1980's, when local enterprises included bars and gambling institutions, Spenard gained a reputation as a “red light district” in the region. But Spenard has grown--and grown up. Today, the neighborhood spans both sides of its winding namesake Spenard Road, a central transit corridor featuring and features strong local businesses, proud residents, and more than a few local artists. Spenard is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Anchorage, and in some areas, also one of the poorest. CIHA’s focus area of census tract 20 has a median income of $39,688 and unemployment rate of 8.9% compared to a $78,121 median income and 6.9% unemployment rate for all of Anchorage. Similarly, The Anchorage Comprehensive Plan identifies Spenard Road as one of the city’s core commercial corridors and encourages new housing, mixed-use development, and road and transit improvements. Within this broader framework, CIHA has focused redevelopment efforts at the intersection of 36th Avenue and Spenard Road.
Investing in Spenard
In 2004, CIHA moved our main office to the intersection of 36th and Spenard. CIHA’s first purchase was the former PJ’s strip club, followed by the former Olson’s gas station and numerous other residential and commercial properties. In 2017, we completed a mixed-use building at 3600 Spenard Road, which added 33 one-bedroom units as well as new commercial space. Environmental remediation at the old gas station site was also completed in 2017, clearing the way for future development.
In addition to housing and commercial development planned for the area, CIHA operates the former Church of Love as a community and cultural hub in the neighborhood which serves as a venue for local arts and music as well as a place for members of the community to interact and engage. For more information and to view our calendar of events, please visit the Church of Love website.
- One of Anchorage’s most diverse neighborhoods, Spenard is home to over 12,000 residents.
- CIHA has already completed 43 units of housing and is planning to add more.
- Neighborhood revitalization efforts include mixed-use developments, environmental cleanups, a new community space, streetscape enhancements, public art, and more.
Local Storefronts, Thoughtful Design
Our focus on mixed-use buildings, which offer both residential and retail space, aligns with city- and neighborhood-wide plans that call for revitalized retail space along Spenard Road. 3600 Spenard houses Cook Inlet Lending Center, CIHA’s subsidiary community development financial institution (CDFI), which offers homeownership assistance, including free consultations and down payment assistance.
Honoring Our Land
With support from the State of Alaska, Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CIHA engaged in a multi-year remediation of a contaminated site at 3607 Spenard Road. Following this process, CIHA plans to bring new housing and commercial development to the area, turning this blighted site into a symbol of positive change. CIHA’s restoration of nearby Fish Creek includes public art at the 3600 plaza and plans for further improvements to the green infrastructure to support a healthy stream corridor.
As a participant in ArtPlace America’s Community Development Investments (CDI) program, CIHA is partnering with artists and residents to explore creative solutions for community issues. Projects have included Living Big, Living Small, an artist-led initiative to design the city’s first micro-apartments and Mime Spenard, a community engagement project that helped bring residents, businesses, and mimes together during the renovation of Spenard Road. The Reclaiming Asphalt project demonstrated a new way of thinking about our streetscapes, historic buildings, and gathering spaces for the people who live, work, and play in Spenard.
Community Identity and Belonging
In 2015, CIHA purchased an old 1950s church at 3502 Spenard Road. After testing the space in partnership with artists over a 3 year period, it became known as a community space that supports arts and cultural events as well as private gatherings. Today, the Church of Love is being utilized for a variety of community and arts-related initiatives, from community meetings to live theater and artist studios. CIHA is committed to preserving and enhancing the existing structure for long term use.