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Downtown Phoenix Park is a Finalist for National Award

[Source: Cassie StraussDowntown Devil]

Civic Space Park one of five finalists for national urban excellence award

Cassie Strauss/DD

Civic Space Park in downtown Phoenix is one of five finalists for the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence, a recognition given every other year for urban spaces that contribute to their community.

A team of three judges visited Phoenix this past week to evaluate the park and its impact on downtown Phoenix. At an interview luncheon Tuesday, members of the community gathered to present their case. Among those speaking were community volunteers, performers who use the park, members of arts groups, a police officer, and some of the men and women who collaborated to create Civic Space.

All attending spoke in favor of the park’s versatile spaces, safety record and, most importantly, tolerance of the area’s inhabitants, who include many homeless and mentally ill. The nearby Westward Ho building is a low-income housing center for the elderly and many residents frequent the park.

ASU’s liaison to the park, Malissa Geer, explained that diversity makes the park what it is.

The rich social fabric is a necessary “learning experience for students to learn that safety does not equal homogeneity,” she said. “To learn that safety is not just ‘these people look like me.’”

As a large presence in the downtown area, the university needs to “break the fear” that pervades the perception of the neighborhoods surrounding the Downtown campus, Geer said. Safety is often not the true issue. The homeless are rarely dangerous, but rather, make other citizens — including many students — simply uncomfortable, she said.

Cmdr. Richard Wilson, the police officer who spoke at the interview, said that many students and parents question the safety of the park, but in reality there is little danger.

“I had one parent say to me, ‘My daughter saw a homeless person. What are you going to do about it?’” he said. “The fact is, this is a benign population. If you ask them why they’re here, they say, ‘Because I feel safe.’”

Geer said it’s important to activate the park — to raise the number of people using the park on a daily basis. The park is one of just a few in Phoenix with a security presence, and not only can the park be a beautiful place to visit, but a necessary encounter with urban living, Geer said.

“We want our students to actually understand diversity,” she said. “How can we displace the homeless and train social workers at the same time?”

The award for urban excellence measures, among other things, the impact on the community. One way that impact is shown is through inclusion of all facets of the population.

Already the park has garnered a $10,000 prize for being a silver finalist, and if selected for the gold it will receive a total of $50,000.

Other finalists include The Bridge Homeless Assistance Center in Dallas, Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, the Gary Comer Youth Center in Chicago and the Santa Fe Railyard Redevelopment. Civic Space is the only project this year that is technically a city park.

The 2009 winner was Inner-City Arts of Los Angeles, an organization that services youth in the city’s Skid Row area by providing art instruction and education.

Contact the reporter at clstraus@asu.edu

Radiate Phoenix to discuss ASU as community partner, 4/28

radiatephx[Source: Claudia Bullmore, Radiate Phoenix] — Join us in welcoming Malissa Geer as she shares ASU Downtown’s efforts to integrate into this community.   Malissa is the Community Engagement Liaison from the Office of the University Vice President at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus and helps this significant downtown entity contribute to downtown’s placemaking efforts.  We will gather near the downtown campus at The Turf and hear from restaurant owner Andrew Mirtich about how ASU and other factors influenced his decision in selecting Turf’s location.  Radiate specials will be featured!

Downtown Phoenix ASU concert series meant to build sense of community

Two people sitting

Andy Naylor & Jacob Koller of Try Me Bicycle

[Source: ASU] — ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus is using the power of music to engage faculty, staff, and students to build lasting relationships with their local community.  Try Me Bicycle will headline the inaugural “Know Your Neighbor” free concert series, which starts next week and runs through November.  Sponsored by the Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix campus and local communities, the series is open to the public and designed to introduce students to each other and the community where they live.  

“The Know Your Neighbor concert series is an exciting opportunity for ASU faculty, staff and student body to get to know local venues, musicians, community members and each other,” said Malissa Geer, community engagement liaison for the Office of the University Vice President at the Downtown Phoenix campus.  “Our campus is surrounded by many local businesses and organizations that are eager to know our faculty, students and staff in a much more meaningful way.  Using the arts and local venues is only one of the many unique ways for ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus to become even more integrated into this rich and vibrant community.”

The series kicks off on Tuesday, Sept. 23 at Cibo, 603 N. Fifth Ave.  Additional shows by Try Me Bicycle are scheduled for downtown Phoenix Sunnyslope, Grand Avenue Arts District, and Roosevelt Row.  A portion of the band’s debut CD, Voicings, will go toward future support of community engagement activities.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

“Town & gown” work together to benefit ASU Downtown Phoenix students

A two-year effort to create access from local downtown businesses and cultural interests to ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus achieved its first positive step on Wednesday, August 13.  A team of volunteers and business owners spent three hours at Roosevelt Commons at a “stuffing party” to make over 1,500 “Welcome Bags” of information and special savings for faculty, staff, and incoming ASU downtown campus dorm residents and commuting students.

The effort was a culmination of a meeting with ASU Downtown’s Associate Dean of the College of Public Programs Deb Gullett; Local First Arizona Executive Director Kimber Lanning; Grand Avenue business owner Anna Marie Gutierrez; and Downtown Voices Coalition Steering Committee Chair Steve Weiss.  The discussion focused on the limited ability for local business to interact with the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.  The traditional “flier rack” information kiosks and bulletin boards normally found on college campuses have for two years been left out of the downtown campus, and the meeting was held to discuss options.

It was Ms. Gullett who suggested the info bag giveaway, and the three local participants rallied downtown troops to create the overflowing Welcome Bag with Artlink First Friday, Local First Arizona’s Small Wonders brochure, and Roosevelt Row maps as well as fliers for downtown and midtown restaurants, service providers, and entertainments.  Also included among others were cultural centers such as Phoenix Art Museum and Heard Museum and Urban Affairs publication, “You Are Here.”  Bags were obtained by Eric Gudiño, ASU Downtown’s Director of Community Relations/Office of Public Affairs, from both the ASU Bookstore and Downtown Phoenix Partnership.  DPP donated their soon-to-be-replaced “Copper Square” branded bags, and extra packages were filled using Devious Wig’s tote-bags.

The promise from ASU Downtown’s representatives is that this is the first of many coming innovations, including access to the electronic “bulletin boards” of the Taylor Place dorms and a flier rack for printed materials in the Administrative Building and other locations.  Upcoming meetings with ASU Downtown Dean Debra Friedman and Community Engagement Liaison Malissa Geer will focus on these and other efforts for the campus and the downtown to commingle.  Stay tuned.