Reviving downtown Phoenix through art
[Source: Michael Tulipan, New York Times] — BOARDED-UP buildings and empty lots in the shadow of office towers hardly seemed a promising foundation for an arts district in rapidly growing Phoenix. But once-neglected and dangerous Roosevelt Row, on the north side of downtown, turned out to be an irresistible lure for artists looking for cheap spaces in which to live and work. Galleries, restaurants and a farmers’ market soon followed.
Today, Roosevelt Row is the city’s cutting-edge art destination, full of galleries like Perihelion Arts (610 East Roosevelt Street, No. 137; 602-334-6299) and Eye Lounge (419 East Roosevelt Street; 602-430-1490), which showcase contemporary, often challenging art and performances. The area is also a popular draw during Phoenix’s monthly First Fridays art walk (artlinkphoenix.com).
Just as vital to the area’s resurgence is the Downtown Phoenix Public Market (721 North Central Avenue; foodconnect.org/phoenixmarket), founded five years ago by Community Food Connections, a local nonprofit with an ambitious agenda. “The goals of the market were to increase access to healthy food and create a vibrant gathering space in the heart of the city,” said Cindy Gentry, the organization’s executive director. Today, the market (open 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays) has over 65 vendors offering local produce, jewelry, herbal remedies and treats like delicious lemon strawberry basil sorbet ($2) from Crave Artisan Ice Cream, a local purveyor.
Last October, the market expanded to include Urban Grocery and Wine Bar (14 East Pierce Street; 602-254-1799), downtown Phoenix’s first grocery store in nearly three decades. The grocery sells products from many market vendors and features an outpost of Royal Coffee Bar, as well as a wine bar serving Arizona labels (starting at $7 a glass).
For the fashion-minded, Spoken Boutique (610 East Roosevelt Street, No. 148) stocks trendy denim labels like William Rast and Bishop of Seventh, Wet Cement T-shirts and flirty dresses. Local artists and residents drop into two-year-old Conspire (901 North Fifth Street; 602-237-5446), a laid-back boutique and coffee shop with offerings as diverse as handmade paper, quirky clothing and vegan doughnuts.
The area’s transformation was perhaps best encapsulated by Michael Carbajal, a former boxing champion and local celebrity who grew up on the hardscrabble streets of Roosevelt Row and is now a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. On a recent night’s visit to the bar at the year-old Asian tapas hot spot Sens (705 North First Street, No. 120; 602-340-9777; sensake.com) Mr. Carbajal spoke about the changes in the neighborhood. “It was rough,” he said, before dropping a shot of sake into his beer and gesturing to the sleek surroundings. “I like it better now. I can come here.”
Posted on January 30, 2010, in Arts and Culture, Business, Crime, Diversity and Cultural Inclusion, Downtown Vitality, Downtown Voices Coalition and tagged Cindy Gentry, Conspire, Downtown Phoenix, Eye Lounge, Michael Carbajal, Perihelion Arts, Public Market, Roosevelt Row, Royal Coffee Bar, Sens, Spoken Boutique. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.