Blog Archives

Downtown Phoenix Urban Form Project topic of Sept. 30 RadiatePhx meeting

[Source: RadiatePhx] — Persons intersested in downtown Phoenix growth, development, and activity are invited to the special one year anniversary edition of RadiatePhx.  This month is a discussion of the Downtown Phoenix Urban Form Project as it enters the final stages of developing the Downtown Phoenix Form-Based Code.  Guest speakers are City of Phoenix Planning Department staff who have invested much time and energy into developing a plan that will affect development for years to come.

The Urban Form Project is a collaborative process to shape future growth and to help realize the Downtown Strategic vision for a livelier, more integrated, and sustainable downtown.  For more information, click here.  Event logistics below:

If Phoenix is doing form-based coding, can your community?

Form-Based Coding is a method of regulating development to achieve a specific urban form based on a community vision and time-tested forms of urbanism.  Does your community or business have an interest in learning the basics of this method of regulating development in order to address the character of a development or neighborhood?

Attendees of FBC 101 will learn how this tool is used to define public space/street standards, building form standards, and the relationship between them.  The course will explain how to determine the scale and appropriate form necessary to achieve a predictable public realm.  Other course activities include an analysis of a community’s DNA, regulating plan variations, and understanding legal issues related to FBC.

This course is the first of a three part series to be offered in Phoenix, AZ.  For more information on FBCs, click here(Oh, and for an update on Phoenix’s FBC efforts, click here.)

  • Course Date: Sept 26 and 27, 2008
  • Time: 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • Place: Planning + Design Academy, PURL, 234 N. Central Ave., 8th Floor, Phoenix, AZ
  • Cost: “Early bird” registration is $750 for private/corporate and $700 for public/non-profits.  Course is limited to 50 attendees, registration is not complete until payment is received.
  • Benefits: 14.5 AIA/ASLA LEU’s and APA CM’s.
  • Food: Yes!  Program includes breakfast and lunch.
  • For more information and to register, click here.

Instructors

  • Shaine Alleman, Tiffany & Bosco P.A.
  • Victor Dover, Dover, Kohl & Partners
  • Roger Eastman, City of Flagstaff
  • Mary Madden, Ferrell Madden Lewis Associates
  • Dan Sloan, Esq., McGuire Woods LLP

Got creativity? Help “spice up” Downtown Phoenix Plan

Let the creative juices flow... or something like that.

Okay, we all know about plans and what happens to many plans (i.e., they just sit on a shelf collecting dust).  Well, the City of Phoenix Planning Department wants to make sure that doesn’t happen to its Downtown Phoenix Plan, adopted by the Phoenix City Council on July 2.

The Plan is a policy document that will provide direction as the City continues work on the Form-Based Code and begins to prepare the detailed Connected Oasis Plan.  As a continuation of the Urban Form Project, Planning Department staff is conducting a series of public meetings in each of the Downtown Character Areas to prepare a detailed character analysis of each area.  That analysis will be used to prepare specific Form-Based Code development standards for each Character Area.  As the draft detailed analysis Character Area Plans are completed, they will be added to the department’s website.

The Plan format has not been finalized and the format may change.  If you have suggestions for the format design, “user-friendliness,” and method of dissemination — let’s get creative people! — pass your ideas along to Dean Brennan, Principal Planner, Phoenix Planning Department, by e-mail or phone at 602-262-4499.

Phoenix gets real (Republic editorial)

[Source: Arizona Republic, July 9, 2008] — Want to build a cool project in downtown Phoenix?  Start applying for zoning variances.  You’ll need as many as 18 to carry out an appealing urban, people-friendly plan — even though it is exactly the type of development the city is so eager to attract. 

We have a huge disconnect.  The city zoning code doesn’t distinguish between suburban neighborhoods and the central-city core.  The rules are basically the same for both areas: setbacks, lot coverage, parking requirements, building standards, and on and on.

Phoenix has made enormous strides in energizing downtown, with big-league sports, a growing university, an expanding convention center, new hotel rooms, art galleries, entertainment, and the start of a residential core.  Yet city regulations and policies throw a steady stream of monkey wrenches into the works.  Now Phoenix is finally moving to create a set of planning tools that fits downtown goals instead of subverting them.

Last week, the City Council adopted the Downtown Phoenix Plan.  It’s a follow-up to the Downtown Strategic Vision of 2004.  An overarching theme is the “connected oasis“: a series of attractive public places and pedestrian corridors that link the activity centers downtown.  It’s a way to bring out the character of this hot, arid place while also making it more livable.  The plan is designed to be a bridge to reality.  It lays out the regulations and public projects required to fulfill the vision.  Among the big steps that will take us over the bridge:

  • Adopt a new kind of zoning, a “form-based code.”  The current zoning code — known as “Euclidean,” after a town in a court case — emphasizes separating uses.  Residential, commercial, and industrial developments are kept apart.  At a more detailed level, the focus is on such basics as building height.  A form-based code takes a broader look, considering the relationship between buildings and the public realm, including sidewalks.  Maintaining the character of a neighborhood is important.  Mixed uses and creative reuses of old buildings are allowed, even encouraged.  Pedestrian comfort and safety are emphasized.  The city has been floating a draft form-based code, and many of the elements are in the plan.  The proposals include a process to allow building elements to project into the public right-of-way.  That could allow, for instance, overhangs that shade the sidewalk.  The private sector does this type of holistic planning in creating master-planned communities.  The difference is that Phoenix must work within existing development instead of starting with a clean slate.
  • Figure out creative funding mechanisms.  With a tight city budget and a wobbly economy, it’s a tough time to talk about spending.  But there are critical needs, including green space and shade structures, that will require extra dollars.  The success of downtown hinges on these relatively small investments, and skimping would be foolishly shortsighted.
  • Give us shade, shade, shade.  We’ve had lots of lip service and little action.  While Phoenix has started planting trees along parts of Central Avenue and other streets, the specimens are pretty scrawny.  Structures to provide shade are still so rare that the nearly two-decade-old Arizona Center is still held up as an example.  In one promising move, the city is doing an inventory of shade needs on downtown streets.  For future development, the plan shows how well-designed building heights and placement can shade streets and promote air movement, relieving some of the “urban heat island” effect.
  • Have the city set an example.  Downtown just won’t work if it isn’t a comfortable pedestrian environment, and Phoenix has done a less-than-stellar job on some of the projects it controls.  All city departments must be on the same wavelength about what works and how to maintain it.  No more trimming trees so severely that they provide little shield against the sun.
  • Get local input.  Phoenix has done a lot of outreach so far.  That’s particularly important for the next stage: identifying the characteristics of each neighborhood and then developing the standards to reinforce it.  Good participation in stakeholder meetings is essential.
  • Build the momentum to get things done.  The plan is full of ideas for using materials best suited to our environment, adding green space, offsetting the climate challenges, and reinforcing the downtown identity.  Carrying them out will take long-term commitment, resources, and enthusiasm. Support must come from all sides: government, business, non-profits, interest groups, and the community.

The first test will be getting the new form-based code approved by the end of the year.  The Phoenix downtown plan touches on themes that are vitally important in the rest of the city and in other communities throughout Arizona.  They should watch it carefully, cheer it on, and adopt all the relevant points.  To check out the Phoenix plan, go to http://phoenix.gov/urbanformproject/dtplan.html.

Give your feedback on the City’s Downtown Phoenix Plan

The City of Phoenix Planning Department staff re-write of the Downtown Phoenix Plan is available online.  This document was given to the Planning Commission on May 14 and represents a major re-write of the Public Review draft presented to the Planning Commission in January by the project consultant.  City staff has “tweaked” the text, replaced a number of the images, and continues to add more images and maps.

Your questions, comments, and opinions are welcome!  Give your feedback before June 9, 2008 to Dean Brennan, Principal Planner, Planning Department, City of Phoenix, at 602-262-4499 or e-mail.

Staff continues to work on the Form-Based Code and is now conducting meetings with stakeholders in each of the Character Areas identified in the Plan.  The Code will go to the Planning Commission and City Council this fall.

Learn more about Urban Form at public meetings

Urban Form Project graphic

The City of Phoenix Planning Department will hold a series of public meetings to provide an update and gain feedback on the Downtown Urban Form Project and Downtown Form Based Code proposal.  You are welcome to attend one or more of the following:

  • March 18, 6 p.m., SoDo Phoenix Business & Civic Association, Coach & Willie’s, 412 S. 3rd St.
  • March 19, 6 p.m., Roosevelt Action Alliance, Irish Cultural Center at Margaret T. Hance Park (north of Roosevelt on east side of N. Central)

Getting to know Form Based Coding at March 10-11 course

Form Based Coding exampleForm Based Coding is a method of regulating development to achieve a specific urban form based on a community vision and time-tested forms of urbanism.  As local municipalities are considering alternative zoning and design methods to create a new urban form, this course will have increasing relavance to private and public planners, designers, and developers.

Attendees will learn how this tool is used to define public space/street standards, building form standards and the relationship between them.  The course will explain how to determine the scale and appropriate form necessary to achieve a predictable public realm.  Other course activities include an analysis of a community’s DNA, regulating plan variations, and understanding legal issues related to FBC.

  • Date: March 10-11, 2008
  • Time: 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • Place: Planning + Design Academy, PURL, 234 N. Central Ave., 8th Floor, Phoenix

Cost: Registration prior to March 1, 2007 is $750 for private/corporate and $700 for public/non-profits.  Pricing structure for multiple attendees can be viewed on the Planning + Design Academy website.  Course is limited to 50 attendees, registration is not complete until payment is received.

Program will include breakfast and lunch. This course receives 14.5 AIA/ASLA LEU’s and APA CM’s.

Garfield concerned about 7th St. & Van Buren project

[Source: Kim Moody, Garfield Organization] – Because the Form Based Code has not yet been formally adopted by the Phoenix City Council, some developers are taking buildings to the sidewalk (literally).  Garfield, like other downtown neighborhoods, is again being hit with another project, this time at the northeast corner of 7th St. and Van Buren.

The developer of the six-story biomedical facility with a six-story parking structure, The Plaza Companies, is asking the City of Phoenix for ZERO set-back and proposes “dumping” their traffic onto Polk and 9th St.  Neighbors are concerned and upset traffic will come and go through residential streets.  Among the other variances requested is minimal landscaping (going against the City’s push for pedestrian-friendly, shade corridors).

A hearing on this matter will take place at 10 a.m., Feb. 5 in Hearing Room “C” at City Hall.  For more information, contact Dana Johnson with the Garfield Organization.  For more information about Form Based Codes, contact Dean Brennan with the City of Phoenix Planning Department