Blog Archives

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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PARK(ing) Day is returning to downtown Phoenix

PARK(ing) Day is returning to downtown Phoenix on Friday, September 17th. Building on the success of last years efforts, several community members, neighborhood leaders and urbanites have gathered together and are ready to step up to the curb, put a quarter in the meter, and transform curbside metered parking spots into temporary public parks.

When they do, they will join artists and activists all over the globe for PARK(ing) Day 2010. This annual, one-day event promotes green and public spaces in the urban core.  It helps people rethink the way we use our streets and creates diverse conversations about how we can make sustainable cities. This concept of PARK(ing) Day is that putting money into a parking meter is like renting a public space.

Since its founding in San Francisco in 2005, PARK(ing) Day  has blossomed into a worldwide grassroots movement: PARK(ing) Day events have included more than 500 “PARK” installations in more than 100 cities on four continents, including PARK installations in South Africa, Poland, Norway, New Zealand and South Korea.

PARK(ing) Day is an opportunity to create community, engage the public and begin a dialogue on topics ranging from city parks and public space to the environment to mobility options and community improvement projects. Well-known urban activist and author Jane Jacobs wrote in The Death and Life of Great American Cities that, to create a safe, prosperous and worth living in, one must start with “lively and interesting streets.”

All Phoenicians are invited to get creative and join the effort—for an hour or two, or all day if you’d like. All you need to do is come up with ideas for a ‘temporary park,’ gather items to fit that theme, invite your friends to take part, and show up ready to be part of the movement.

So far, several groups have confirmed their participation.  The University of ArizonaCollege of Medicine, the Downtown Phoenix Partnership Ambassadors, an Arizona State University “Art Action” team and the Arizona Democratic Party  will be setting up their own spots in downtown Phoenix.  On Adams St, between Central and 1st Aves, a group of urban advocates will be joined by  the CO+HOOTS co-working crew.

Most groups will be setting up their spots first thing in the morning (7-10am), to avoid the mid-day heat, so feel free to stop by on he way to work!

Find Out More

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Park(ing) Day Phoenix: from car spaces to people places, 9/18

pd2009_poster_commemorative_previewPark(ing) Day is coming to downtown Phoenix on Friday, September 18, as community activists, neighborhood leaders and urban planners throughout the city step up to the curb, put a quarter in the meter, and proceed to transform curbside metered parking spots into temporary public parks. PARK(ing) Day is an annual, one-day, global event that promotes the importance of green and urban public spaces.  It is intended to help people rethink the way we use our streets and creates diverse conversations about how we can make sustainable cities.  This concept of PARK(ing) Day is based on the idea that putting money into a parking meter is like ʻrentingʼ a public space.

Jane Jacobs, in The Death and Life of Great American Cities wrote that, in order to make a city safe, prosperous and worth living in, one must start with “lively and interesting streets.”  With this end in mind, Park(ing) Day PHX is an opportunity to create community, engage the public and begin a dialogue on topics ranging from city parks and public space to the environment to mobility options and community improvement projects.

The Park(ing) spaces will be located adjacent to ASU Downtown, on 1st St. between Polk St. and Fillmore St. between 7 and 9 a.m.

PARK(ing) Day was originally created in 2005 by Rebar, a San Francisco-based art and design studio, as an experimental exploration in repurposing public space. Since then has been creatively adapted and sparked imaginations around the world.

For more details on Park(ing) Day in general, click here.  Please contact any of the co-organizers for information on the Phoenix event: Kathryn StewartYuri Artibise, or Tony Arranaga.

Recap of inaugural Jane’s Walk in downtown Phoenix


Jane's Walk walkers gather at Portland Park.

[Source: Yuri Artibise] — The inaugural Jane’s Walk Phoenix was a huge success.  Over thrity people took advantage of the nice weather to come out and celebrate Jane Jacobs and learn more about the neighborhoods of downtown phoenix.  The initimate size of the group allowed people to meet one another and share stories, history, and gossip about the streets, parks, and buildings that we passed during the walk.

Special thanks goes to Catrina Knoebl, Greg Esser, and Kimber Lanning for sharing their knowledge and insights along the route, as well as all the particpants for their great questions and observations.  As I’ve said from the beginning, it’s the participants who are the true guides of the walk.  Special thanks also to Jack London, Nick Bastien (Rail Life), and David Bickford (PHXRailFood) for taking photos along the way.   [Note: To read the full recap, click here.]

Participate in Jane’s Walk in downtown Phoenix, May 2


Jane Jacobs

[Source: Yuri Artibise] — Downtown Phoenix will be home to Phoenix’s inaugural Jane’s Walk on May 2, 2009.  The walk will take place between 10 am and noon on May 2, 2009.  It will start and end at Portland Park at N 1st Ave. and W. Portland St. (next to the Roosevelt light rail station).  This free walking tour is part of an annual event to commemorate the birthday of renown urban activist Jane Jacobs who died in 2006.  Jane’s Walk is a “street-level celebration” of Jacobs’ legacy and ideas that combines the simple act of walking with personal observations, urban history, and local lore as a means of knitting people together into strong and resourceful communities through bottom-up approaches and neighborhood involvement.

Jane Jacobs was an urbanist and activist whose writings championed a fresh, community-based approach to city building.  She had no formal training as a planner, yet wrote what many consider to be the ‘bible’ of urban planning.  Her 1961 treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, introduced groundbreaking ideas about how cities function, evolve and fail that are now common sense to generations of architects, planners, politicians, and activists.  Jacobs was a champion the interests and knowledge of local residents and pedestrians over a centralized, car-centered approach to planning.  She also promoted the refurbishing old buildings instead of tearing them down and building new ones, and demonstrated the desirability of increasing the density of cities instead of sprawling endlessly outward.

Cities across the U.S., Canada, and India will host Jane’s Walks on the first weekend in May.  This is the third consecutive year for Jane’ Walks in North America.  So far, Jane’s Walks have occurred in Toronto and New York in 2007 and in Ottawa, Calgary, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Salt Lake City in 2008.  This year, the walks have exploded to 41 cities, including 2 in India.  Several cities are host to multiple walks.

You don’t have to be familiar with Jane Jacobs’ work to participate.  The walks are meant to be fun and participatory–everyone’s got a story and they’re usually keen to share it.  Whether you’re a local activist, resident, business owner, politician, preservationist or a simply a citizen who loves your community, participating in Jane’s Walk Phoenix is a great way to celebrate the reemergence of downtown Phoenix as a vital urban hub and honor the legacy of Jane Jacobs.

Jane’s Walk USA is being managed by the Center for the Living City, a non-profit organization operating out of The University of Utah’s Department of City & Metropolitan Planning.  The Center for the Living City is linked in spirit and purpose with their sister organization, The Centre for City Ecology in Toronto.

If you would like to be involved, receive more information, or schedule an interview, contact Yuri Artibise, coordinator of Jane’s Walk Phoenix, via e-mailwebsite, or Twitter.

Restoring pieces of Phoenix history (Republic editorial)

[Source: Arizona Republic, June 16, 2008] — Phoenix, a city once smitten with everything new, is now romancing its older sections as a way to preserve, beautify, and energize.  And this time, it’s not just talk.  That’s evidenced by a series of actions that implemented a plan to make “adaptive reuse” more common and easier to do.  The progress was promoted and bolstered by a vocal and surprisingly influential cadre of activist citizens and buoyed by a number of recent commercial successes across the city that are included within Small Wonders, Local First Arizona’s pocket-sized guide to shopping and dining in central Phoenix.

Don’t believe it?  Think that such innovative thinking, such a reverence for the past was more suited to Portland, Austin, or San Francisco?  Look again.  Better yet, check out the Downtown Voices Web site and scroll down to a June 9 entry that chronicles the success stories, the missed opportunities, and the great potential to redevelop older houses into restaurants and businesses, to transform industrial spaces and warehouses into studio apartments and art galleries.  It’s a video collection of Phoenix “treasures” that will inspire you — ones that you might even visit: Cibo, La Grande Orange, the Bentley galleries, Hotel Monroe, the Antique Store, and the Genesis charter school.

Even more significantly, city management and the Developmental Services Department officials seem to embrace the concept.  In recent years, we heard horror stories how code-enforcement, fire, and other regulators placed all kinds of requirements and roadblocks in the way of such developments.  But as if on cue, the market started rewarding those persistent entrepreneurs, now seen as visionary innovators.

The Phoenix City Council listened.  City staff took notice.  The community advocates, including Local First, Downtown Voices, and downtown artists echoed author Jane Jacobs’ counsel: “New ideas must use old buildings.”  City policies reflect the changing attitudes:

  • A second development code, The International Existing Building Code, geared for older buildings, offers some practical relief on renovations while maintaining public safety.
  • Creation of an Office of Customer Advocacy to help small businesses confused by the regulatory process.
  • Participation directly in the Downtown Artist Issues Task Force.
  • Appointed a 21-member Adaptive Reuse Task Force with representatives from the city manager’s office, the City Council and several city departments. The task force will develop comprehensive recommendations by this fall. It might borrow from successful policies used in Denver, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

This newfound interest down at City Hall about incorporating old buildings into new uses?  The adaptive reuse of existing space for new businesses?  It’s not just lip service.