Compared to most Anchorage neighborhoods, Spenard is quite unique. No other neighborhood has the same mix of eclectic businesses, cultural diversity and enduring entrepreneurial spirit. So how did such a funky neighborhood come into fruition? Although it is now a part of Anchorage, Spenard was once separate from the Municipality. The neighborhood took shape around a winding road connecting Anchorage’s famous “tent city” to a lumber camp owned by Joe Spenard, hence the name “Spenard Road.”
Around the 1930’s, planning began to play a role in the area’s growth. Some of the original neighborhoods along the corridor were platted in a traditional grid pattern of narrow streets, alleys and rectangular lots. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, some of these subdivisions were given a commercial zoning designation, which over time has allowed for an eclectic mix of uses and activities. These subdivisions had no sidewalks, parks or pedestrian amenities, and many fell into disrepair. Spenard Road quickly evolved into a mix of auto-oriented businesses that regularly changed ownership or uses, causing the corridor to lose a cohesive focus.
By the 1980’s, redevelopment potential and reuse of existing, aging structures was being hampered by inflexible land use regulations and outdated infrastructure. As a solution, the Municipality and the Spenard Community Council collaborated in the early 1980’s to infuse public funds into the south third of the corridor, which led to the installation of a new parkway design for Spenard Road. The Spenard Corridor Plan seeks to continue improvement to the corridor, this time with a focus on transit-oriented development.