Blog Archives

Downtown Phoenix Civic Space floating sculpture nears completion

[Connie Cone Sexton, Arizona Republic] — Sky Bloom, the much-debated public art piece taking shape in a downtown Phoenix park, is about to get its final installment: more than 600 pounds of netting that will be affixed to the two blue steel rings already in place.  It’s just what the sculpture’s naysayers and fans have been waiting for.  When it was first approved by the Phoenix City Council in late 2007, its size, design, and $2.4 million price tag became a hot topic.  Some argued it was a waste of money; others said it gave Phoenix a cultural boost and gave jobs to Arizonans, including a Tucson engineering firm, to help create the piece.

The giant rings, erected in June, are the hub of what will be a 100-foot-tall, 100-foot-wide floating net sculpture.  It was designed by Boston artist Janet Echelman with a goal to be the focal point of the 2.7-acre park being developed between Central and First avenues, and Van Buren and Fillmore streets.

The polyester netting is being braided by a company in Washington state.  “The fabric is variegated, to give the appearance of various shades of blue,” said John Neal, vice president of Diamond Nets Inc.  He said they will be finished within a few weeks.  City officials will coordinate with the ongoing development of the park on the right time to attach the net but estimate it will happen before early March, possibly in February.  [Note: To view the full article, click here.  To view a 24/7 webcam of Civic Space construction, click here.]

“Archaeology of Phoenix’s Chinatown” topic of Jan. 7 lecture

Downtown Phoenix

Sun Mercantile Building, last remaining structure in Phoenix's Chinatown

Burton Barr Central Library will present “Archaeology of Phoenix’s Chinatown” a free lecture and slide presentation hosted by archaeologist Dr. Todd Bostwick, from 7 – 8 p.m., Wednesday, January 7, at 1221 N. Central Ave.  Bostwick will discuss the archaeological excavations of the historic Phoenix Chinatown at First and Madison streets.  The construction of the Phoenix Suns stadium led archaeologists to excavate portions of two city blocks exposing thousands of artifacts.  The study of these artifacts has provided some interesting insights into Phoenix’s Chinatown.

The lecture, part of the “AZest for the West” series, is supported with funds granted by the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records Agency.  Phoenix Public Library is a system of 14 branch libraries and the Burton Barr Central Library.  For more information, call 602-262-4636 or visit website.

Civic Space artist to speak at Phoenix Art Museum, Feb. 10

Rendering of Civic Space "Desert Bloom," Janet Echelman

[Source: Phoenix Art Museum] — “Transforming Spaces into Destinations” is the title of Janet Echelman’s public lecture on February 10, 2009, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Phoenix Art Museum.  Echelman is an eminent international artist known for sculpting exciting public spaces.  Her work has been installed in a dozen nations throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. 

Major new artworks have helped to turn urban spaces into must see destinations and the new Downtown Civic Space near Central and Van Buren with its monumental sculpture by Echelman will accomplish that in Phoenix.  Her presentation at museum will be the first time Ms. Echelman discusses her work with Phoenix residents.

Phoenix Civic Space artist talks about her “Sky Bloom” project

Janet Echelman

Janet Echelman

[Source: Stephanie Dembowski, Special for the Republic] — “Her secret is patience” is the title of the unfinished art piece suspended in the air across the street from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication/PBS Eight building on Central and Taylor downtown.  The artist, Janet Echelman, spoke to students and guests about the piece as a part of the Journalism “Cronkite Week” last week alongside Paul Deeb, who designed the 78-foot light sculpture in the school’s stairwell.

“Patience” is actually no secret at all, as the $2.4 million project started in spring of 2007 and has seen little activity in recent months.  Echleman said she was “asked not to speak about the piece until it was unveiled.”  She said that could be as soon as January.  The 100-foot-wide, 100-foot-tall Sky Bloom sparked both praise and curiosity when the Phoenix City Council approved the public art for the Downtown Civic Space Park.  Three steel towers and two steel rings will support the sculpture.  But the sculpture’s netting, designed to resemble a saguaro flower, has yet to be installed.  And for observers — pro and con — the netting is what generated the hoopla in the first place.  Some said it looked like a jellyfish; some, like a mushroom.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Possible renovations, demolition in Phoenix Warehouse District

[Source: Barbara Stocklin, City of Phoenix] — The fate of three properties in Phoenix’s historic Warehouse District was discussed among city Historic Preservation staff and others in early October; two possible renovations and one possible demolition.  Details below:

Historic Preservation staff met with prospective buyers of a vacant warehouse at 515 E. Grant Street on October 3.  Development Services, Downtown Development, and Office of Customer Advocacy staff also attended.  The buyers are the Stanley Sausage Company, which owns a facility at 2201 E. McDowell Road, but is looking to upgrade to a larger building.  The warehouse at 515 E. Grant Street is not listed on either the Phoenix Historic Property Register or the National Register of Historic Places, but is considered eligible for listing; it was built in 1946 for the General Sales Company, was designed by the architectural firm of Lescher & Mahoney and constructed by Del Webb.  Representatives of the Stanley Sausage Company indicated that, if they were to purchase the property, they would likely pursue historic designation for the building and request a grant from the City’s Historic Preservation Bond.  They are also looking at sites outside of Phoenix to relocate their facilities.

The Historic Preservation Office received a Warehouse and Threatened Building Program grant application from Dudley Ventures (James Howard Jr.) to rehabilitate the one-story 1930 Arizona Hardware Supply Company Warehouse at 22 E. Jackson Street.  Because the warehouse’s front façade had previously been stuccoed and the front raised parapet removed, the Historic Preservation Office originally did not consider the building eligible for listing on the Phoenix Historic Property Register, a pre-requisite to apply for a city historic preservation grant.  The owner has since removed the stucco from the brick, has provided plans indicating how the salvaged brick from the front parapet can be reinstalled, and has provided architectural drawings demonstrating how the building can be returned to its historic condition and appearance.  The vacant 6,600 square foot warehouse will be adaptively used for office use by the owner.  The $121,000 grant request will be considered by the Historic Preservation Commission at their October 20, 2008, meeting.  The building would need to be listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register prior to expending any bond dollars for the grant, if the grant application is approved by City Council.

Michael Levine, owner of Phoenix Seed and Feed Warehouse, 411 S. 2nd Street, filled a demolition application for the historic warehouse due to difficulties with his lender.  Because the property is historically designated, the building cannot be demolished until the one-year stay of demolition expires, and the demolition is subject to an approved replacement plan on the site.

Downtown Phoenix parking debate grows along with ASU

[Source: Associated Press] — Some downtown Phoenix residents living in the Roosevelt Neighborhood are expressing concern about parking for Arizona State University students both now and in the future.  Some condo and office building developers waiting for the soft real estate market to rebound are instead turning their downtown land into parking lots for ASU students and others.  That has some members of nearby neighborhood associations worried.  “Ideally, we don’t want a parking lot there,” said Steve Brueckner, president of the Roosevelt Action Association.

Neighbors said they fear that parking, even if it’s temporary, could lead to more permanent downtown lots.  Besides relying on light rail to get students downtown, ASU will also need thousands of parking spaces, according to university figures.  This fall, ASU expects to have 4,500 students and as many as 900 staffers on campus, said university planner Richard Stanley.  The school currently has 1,100 parking spaces and agreements to lease 3,400 other spaces some for daytime use only from the city of Phoenix, near Chase Field; the Mercado complex; and the Phoenix Convention Center.  By 2020, ASU estimates it will have 15,000 downtown students and may need up to 6,000 spaces by then.

Hoping to calm neighborhood fears, the City of Phoenix says some landowners must seek a zoning change or special permit to create a parking lot, said Debra Stark, the city’s planning director.  “The city also has specific lighting and landscaping requirements,” Stark said.  ASU officials said they are still working on a long-term parking fix downtown.  Planning for parking does not include disrupting residential neighborhoods surrounding ASU, Stanley said.

What remains of Phoenix’s Warehouse District

The plight of Phoenix’s Warehouse District is an ongoing saga. Unfortunately, with each passing year historic and vintage buildings continue to decay or be demolished.  This slideshow shows buildings in the district that are listed on one or more historic registries. But such designation is not enough to save and reuse them as is commonplace for similar buildings and districts in many other urban centers.

It’s been our hallmark to tear them down and unfortunately, unlike the New Testament’s Lazarus, they can’t be resurrected.  Let’s take stock in what we have, and “cut the Gordian knot” here and now.  It should be the couth thing to do.  The clock is ticking…

For background information on the Warehouse District:

Phoenix vintage warehouses slated for demolition as part of entertainment district

You call this sustainability?The Jackson Street Entertainment District LLC has filed a rezoning request (Z-07-78-08) and Minor General Plan Amendment (GPA-CC-1-08-8) for a 12-acre site at the southwest corner of 4th Street and Jackson in Phoenix’s historic Warehouse District.  The request would change the zoning from Warehouse Overlay, Downtown core, A-1 with two historic preservation properties to Planned Unit Development (PUD).  The requested Minor General Plan Amendment would change the designation from Industrial to Mixed-Use.  New construction heights in the district as part of the plan include 235′, 215′, and 160′ buildings.  It is believed that several vintage (historically-eligible) warehouses are slated for demolition.

To express your opinion:

  • Contact Susan Sargent with the City of Phoenix by e-mail or phone 602-262-4065.
  • Contact Larry Lazarus, the applicant’s representative, at 602-340-0900. 
  • Write to City of Phoenix Planning Department, 200 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ, 85003.
  • Attend a public meeting on Monday, September 8, 2008, 6 p.m., The Summit at Copper Square, Club 252, 23rd Floor, 310 S. 4th Street.

Bevy of Phoenix park-managed historic sites in severe condition

According to the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department has a number of facilities listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register.  Those highlighted in orange are landmark properties of exceptional significance.  Those highlighted in red are parks with historic properties having the most severe condition issues.

Staff in both departments have said they plan to meet regularly to discuss the status of ongoing projects.  Both departments plan to track their joint City of Phoenix bond projects together during the next five year bond cycle and will continue to explore federal, state, non-profit, and private sector funding sources to leverage city funding for historic projects.

How can you help?  Attend one of the public meetings to be set up in June and July by Parks and Recreation to garner feedback and ideas (now that the Phoenix Parks & Preserve Initiative passed handily by voters).  Also, learn more about the Phoenix Parks and Conservation Foundation, a recognized non-profit, tax-exempt organization that raises funds to help renovate existing parks and acquire new parks and preserves. 

Historic Property Register Sites in Parks

Key Dates

American Legion Post 41 (adobe structure)

1948 (CD)

Coronado Park (park buildings)

1936-1939 (PS)

Eastlake Park (amphitheater & pump house)

1890-1956 (PS)

Encanto Park

1935-1956 (PS)

Papago Park

1932-1946 (PS)

Sachs-Webster Farmstead

ca. 1909 (CD)

South Mountain Park & Preserve

1933-1942 (PS)

Verde Park Pumphouse

1938 (CD)

Carnegie Library and Park

1908 (CD)

Heritage Square/Rosson House

1895-1920 (PS)

Phoenix Indian School

1891-1931 (PS)

Pioneer Cemetery/Smurthwaite House

1880-1914 (PS)

Pueblo Grande Museum & Archeological Park

AD 500-1941 (PS)

Tovrea Castle & Carraro Cactus Garden

1928-1930 (CD)

Arizona Museum

1927 (CD)

Duppa-Montgomery Adobe

ca. 1895 (CD)

Grant Park

1934 (CD)

Harmon Park

1927 (CD)

Matthew Henson Public Housing Project

1940-1941 (PS)

N. Central Streetscape/Murphy Bridle Path

1895-1951 (PS)

Norton House

1912-1913 (CD)

Rancho Ko-Mat-Ke/Circle K Park

ca. 1935 (CD)

University Park Bath House & Pumphouse

1934, 1936 (CD)

CD = Construction Date; PS = Period of Significance.

Patriots Park laser structure coming down

[Source: Michael Clancy, Arizona Republic] — Work to dismantle downtown Phoenix’s laser begins today, with hardly a soul to lament its demise.  When the steel spider of a structure was built in 1986, it was billed as Phoenix’s answer to the Eiffel Tower.  It operated for less than a year before its lasers were turned off for good.  Now, the laser and Patriots Square, where it was situated, are being torn down to make room for CityScape, a huge, mixed-use project stretching from First Avenue to Second Street between Washington and Jefferson streets.  Dismantling the structure will take three weeks.  “I am not shedding any tears over it,” said Attorney General Terry Goddard, who was mayor at the time the laser was installed.  “The concept was noble, but frankly, it never worked.”

The laser was the brainchild of architect Ted Alexander, and it captured the imagination of at least some people at the beginning, in the mid-’80s.  Patriots Square was being rebuilt to include underground parking, and a contract for design of the park went to Alexander.  In an early story in the Phoenix Gazette, Alexander said the laser would give the city “a town square that is unequaled anywhere in the country.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]