Local architect makes case for revamping Capitol Mall

Arizona State Capitol[Source: Will Bruder, president, Will Bruder + Partners Ltd., Phoenix] — Happy birthday, Arizona!  Last Thursday marked the 96th anniversary of your statehood.  On Feb. 14, 1912, from the porch of the Territorial Statehouse, Gov. George W.P. Hunt and citizens of the day celebrated Arizona becoming the 48th state in the Union. Much has happened since that day.  The Territorial Statehouse, completed in 1900 and located at 17th Avenue and Washington Street, has been renamed the state Capitol.  Arizona has transformed itself from a territory of opportunity into one of the fastest-growing states in the Union.  Its capital city, Phoenix, has been recognized as the fifth-largest city in the United States and the largest center of state government.

Although the Grand Canyon will always be known as Arizona’s natural wonder of the world, there is increasing attention to the Valley of the Sun as an aspiring urban oasis in a challenging desert.  Much hard work has brought an array of cultural institutions, a convention center, an Arizona State University campus, a biotech-research initiative, light rail, and more to downtown Phoenix.  There is the sense that something is happening.

Only a few blocks away, however, around the Capitol, much of that energy dissipates.  Yes, schoolkids are still bused in to learn about our democracy and visit our historic gems like the Capitol Museum, the Carnegie Library (100 years old), and the Arizona Mine and Mineral Museum.  And, yes, there are wonderful owner-restored homes in the Woodland Park neighborhood and grass-roots community organizations, such as the Capitol Mall Association, doing important advocacy work in their neighborhoods.  But sadly, much of the area has become a shabby shadow of its youthful 1900s vitality.  Today, it is a place where few go with pride or interest.  Approximately 28,000 state employees work there, but at the end of each day, most speed quickly away down dispiriting one-way streets.  Dusty, empty lots, homeless hopelessness and crime sadly inhabit the area.  Wesley Bolin Plaza/Park, once the site of community events and celebrations, is choked with too many cars parked in the sun and arguments about memorials to tragic events of our past.

With only four full years until our 100th birthday, the celebration of our statehood centennial, we must refocus our attention and energy on this important place.  It is time not to merely talk about another well-intended plan for the Capitol District, another report that will join the 20 plus that have preceded it.  It is time to create something large in concept, practically phased as a marriage of public and private pride, and confidant enough in its ideas and stakeholders to become an inspired reality.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

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