Downtown Anchorage businesses are stressed. Advocates hope new projects will revitalize the area.

a man in a tophat
Rick Goodfellow ran Ghost Tours of Anchorage for 20 years before deciding to close this year. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

For 20 years, Rick Goodfellow ran Ghost Tours of Anchorage. In his trademark top hat, he led groups of mostly tourists through downtown, telling ghost stories and teaching local history.

But now the business is closed. Try to call and get more information on the tour, you’ll hear a recording of Goodfellow sadly stating, “Conditions downtown just are not conducive to a helpful, happy, safe tour.”

Goodfellow said the decision to shutter his tour operation didn’t come easy. The final straw occurred last August, he said, when a teenager followed and harassed his tour for about a half hour.

“That last August experience, I realized, it’s gotten worse, it’s going to continue to get worse,” Goodfellow said. “Would I want to come on this tour? What am I doing here?”

Since the pandemic, downtown Anchorage has struggled to maintain its vibrancy. While advocates say new investments will help revitalize the area, business owners point to a number of concerns they’re having right now: crime, homelessness, the economy. Several say they’re fighting to stay afloat, and others like Goodfellow have shuttered their operations completely. 

Goodfellow said he’s lived in Anchorage since the 1950s, and feels like he doesn’t recognize downtown anymore. 

“Most people behave as they believe other people expect them to behave,” Goodfellow said. “And they will push the rules a little until they get slapped. For whatever reason, downtown Anchorage has become very permissive.”

He’s not the only downtown business owner who’s feeling stressed. 

Stan (left) and Scott Selman are co-owners of the longtime Downtown Anchorage restaurant Club Paris. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Stan Selman co-owns the longtime restaurant Club Paris with his brother Scott. A few businesses on their block have closed in recent years. 

Stan said their restaurant has had to contend with a rise in break-ins and public nuisances from people who are homeless. 

“I had four girls walk in the restaurant, dressed to the nines,” he said. “First thing out of this woman’s mouth, ‘Somebody shit in your doorway.’ How are we supposed to manhandle that?”

Scott Selman said he’s not just concerned for his and his patrons’ safety — it’s also costing them money. He said someone tried breaking into the restaurant a month ago by smashing a front window with a large rock.

“Fortunately our butchers were here and heard him and they ran off,” Scott said.

“Almost gave them a heart attack,” Stan added. 

“That’s about a $2,000 bill to replace that glass,” Scott continued. “And they’re just brazen.”

The Selmans say more needs to be done to find shelter and housing for people who are homeless, some who have pitched tents in a grassy lot downtown or who are sleeping on sidewalks.

Anchorage Downtown Partnership executive director Radhika Krishna. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Radhika Krishna understands those concerns. She’s the executive director of the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, a nonprofit that helps maintain downtown’s infrastructure as well as support local businesses. She said homelessness is top of mind for the city and her organization.

“We’re all trying to work towards as a city, just having a cohesive plan on housing and homelessness, which spans the entire spectrum from emergency shelter to new residential development,” Krishna said. “That’s something that we all know that we need.”

She said the Anchorage Police Department recently reinstituted a downtown foot patrol to improve public safety. 

Scott Selman said he’s also worried about the state of downtown’s economy. Despite his restaurant offering benefits and higher-than-average wages, he said, it’s hard to find and keep workers.

“Wages have gone up, costs have gone up,” he said. “It’s hard to break even, actually.”

Despite those concerns, Krishna said her outlook for the future of downtown is bright. The nonprofit recently put together its first downtown report, and she said there’s a lot to be excited about. 

“From all the data we put together in this report, it looks like we have more new development downtown now than we’ve had in the last decade or two,” Krishna said. “And it looks like there are more retail businesses opening downtown than closing.”

She spoke of the construction of brand new residential rental units and the impending move of the energy company Santos to the large former KeyBank building as signs of a more vibrant downtown. She also highlighted programs like the downtown tax abatement policy, renovations to existing businesses and sidewalks, and expansion of the city’s trail system.  

“These things will change the face of downtown,” Krishna said. “These will bring major new tenants and they’ll create better access to downtown through our trails and sidewalks. And I think it’s going to look completely different than it did 15 years ago.”

Krishna said it’ll be several years before the investments to downtown become noticeable, but she hopes the public sees the progress already underway.

a portrait of a man outside

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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