Downtown Voices statement on ASU College of Nursing design

Frank Dolasinski
Zoning Administrator
City of Phoenix
200 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ 85003

Dear Mr. Dolasinski:

The Downtown Voices Coalition had representation at the variance hearing on January 10 regarding the ASU School of Nursing, ZA-997-07.  However, we did not learn about the hearing, and the variances being requested, until the morning of the meeting.  We are in the process of scheduling a meeting with the architect and ASU regarding some of our concerns.

Because this project was described as the “gateway” to the campus by the architectural team, and is a key component of the campus and informs how it will connect with the rest of downtown, we would like to see some changes to the current request for variances.

As you are aware, the current Urban Form Project, which is steadily making its way through the city approval process, is geared toward making downtown more pedestrian friendly with an emphasis on shade, connectivity, pedestrian-oriented features, and other “green,” sustainable features.  The Urban Form directive is intended to fix some of the design problems that have hurt the walkability of our downtown, some of which have resulted from developers and architects being able to repeatedly vary out of important shade, window and other pedestrian friendly features.

The ZA-997-07 variances being requested are based on current city standards; it’s interesting to note that the city will eventually be requesting more stringent requirements through the Urban Form recommendations (for instance, 60 percent window coverage instead of the currently required 30 percent).

Since this project is publicly funded, and ASU’s stated goal is to promote “green” building practices, we think this building presents an opportunity to set an example, for not only other construction downtown, but to other builders and architects who might be hired for future campus buildings.  The Connected Oasis is an important component of the Urban Form plan, and without adequate shade and shade structures to act as connectors between important destinations, the Connected Oasis concept will be severely compromised.  We would like to see the following in regard to the variances being currently requested:

There should be a major entryway at the corner of Fillmore and 3rd Street, not only creating a gateway to the campus but connectivity to the surrounding non-campus businesses, thoroughfares, and the rest of downtown.  Where the staircase is shown today on the 3rd Street side, the rather hidden entry could create some real security and safety concerns for students.  By locating a major entryway at the corner, you can create a hub of activity that energizes this side of the building and creates the “gateway” ASU states is their goal with this building.  There might also be an opportunity to create a breezeway that connects the interior courtyard with the Fillmore side of the building, helping to break up the mega-block feel of that street face.

We believe the currently required 30 percent window coverage on the 3rd Street face creates an opportunity for the building to be outward looking versus inward looking (and as a matter of fact would prefer to see coverage that reflects the 60 percent the Urban Form is proposing).  The 3rd Street side of the building, without adequate window coverage (or perhaps an inset area for a mural, recessed info boxes, or other visual opportunities) will create a bleak stretch of wall that will add to security concerns. More features along this wall would help to activate the street on this side.  As examples, this could be an opportunity for built-in informational kiosks to help promote downtown events to the student population, or create an opportunity for a mural designed and implemented by ASU fine art majors.  We would like to see these features in addition to the currently required window coverage.

There is not adequate shade along 3rd Street — we would like to see more trees planted along this stretch if indeed the overhang is going to be reduced.  Also, there is no shade at the corner of 3rd and Fillmore.  Because there is a bus stop located at that corner, we would like to see some kind of free standing shade structure for the bus stop area.

Thanks you for your consideration of our concerns before making your determination on these variances.

Best Regards,

Steve Weiss, Chair, Downtown Voices Coalition

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