A Perspective on Downtown Phoenix’s Hance Park

[Source: Seth Anderson, Boy Meets Blog]

In 2005 the Phoenix New Times awarded one if it’s prestigious “Best of…” awards to Hance Park. Hance Park won the award for Best Place to Meet a Crack Dealer. Sigh. Under-utilization and misuse of parks is not unique only to Phoenix, it’s a huge problem in this country.

There are very few parks that actually function the way they should. (For more detailed information I refer you to Jane Jacobs and her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities.)

This particular downtown park is named after Margaret Taylor Hance, the first woman to serve as mayor in Phoenix from 1976-1983. Interstate 10 now runs continuously through downtown Phoenix and stretches from Santa Monica to Jacksonville. But that wasn’t the case until 1990. In order to construct this freeway, the city demolished and wrecked parks of the Garfield, Coronado, and Roosevelt neighborhoods which I must say have never recovered from the gash that the freeway created. The freeway severed connectivity of the inner city neighborhoods. Sigh…

Above the tunnel the city created a 32.5 acre park (often called “Deck Park” because it sits atop the freeway) and is home to the Japanese Friendship Garden and the Irish Cultural Center.

This rendering is from 1989 and was the original vision of the park:

Notice all the green open space. It looks nothing like that today.

I also found this picture of a carrousel that was supposed to go into this park. It never did.

The park is now in a “visioning phase designed to bring the community together and provide a unified direction for a revised master plan of the park.” (Keeping in mind that the master plan was never realized to begin with.) I would love to see this park thrive and be a true source of pride for the city but for that to happen we need more people living near this park. There is enough vacant land around this area that could be redeveloped from vacant parking lot to mixed-use development. No amount of “visioning” will solve the problem of this park.

As Jane Jacobs wrote The Life and Death of Great American Cities, “You can neither lie to a neighbourhood park, nor reason with it. ‘Artist’s conceptions’ and persuasive renderings can put pictures of life into proposed neighbourhood parks or park malls, and verbal rationalizations can conjure up users who ought to appreciate them, but in real life only diverse surroundings have the practical power of inducing a natural, continuing flow of life and use.”

The city has more info and some slides for viewing here.

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