Blog Archives

Where’s Patriots Square Park?

[Source: Steve Weiss, No Festival Required]

Mayor Phil Gordon and RED Development promised a replacement for the original Patriots Square Park in downtown Phoenix. This film shows what we as Phoenix citizens ended up getting as a “park”, a park so unlike a true park that no one who is even there knows it exists.

Video by Leslie Barton and Steve Weiss:



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Downtown Phoenix’s CityScape to “top out,” despite shaky office space market

cityscape drawing-thumb-499x411[Source: Ray Stern, Phoenix New Times] — Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon will help celebrate the “topping out” of a new, city-subsidized office tower downtown this Thursday. With the state of the Valley’s office space market, though, we couldn’t help but wonder if the festivity will include a large, neon “Vacancy” sign for the roof.  Our suggestion elicits an honest chuckle from Jay Thorne, spokesman for the CityScape project.  “I can’t blame you for saying that,” says Thorne in a brief phone call this afternoon.

The building is scheduled to open in March.  Three months ago, it lost planned anchor tenant Wachovia Bank.  Office space vacancy is expected to reach 24 percent in the Valley this year, according to a June Associated Press article.  However, CityScape is doing way better than average in filling its 620,000 square feet of space, Thorne says.  “It’s pushing towards 70 percent leased,” he says.  “It’s a pretty nice success story.”

Of course, part of that success comes after last year’s downsizing of the whole project.  One thousand condo units and a hotel are among the plans that blew away with the dustbowl-like housing market. [Note: Read the full article at Downtown Phoenix’s CityScape to “top out,” despite shaky office space market]

Downtown Phoenix CityScape project: then and now

Graphic from the December 17, 2008 Arizona Republic.  Click on the graphic for a better view.

Site plan of the CityScape block formerly occupied by Patriots Square Park, looking north.  Corresponds to #1, #2, and #3 in the Arizona Republic graphic above.  Click on the site plan for a better view.

Architect selected for downtown Phoenix’s CityScape phase 2

[Source: Phoenix Business Journal] — Davis of Tempe [formerly DFD Cornoyer Hendrick] has been named by RED Development as the architect for Phase 2 of the massive CityScape project now under way in downtown Phoenix.  The mixed-use project encompasses three city blocks between Washington and Jefferson streets and First Avenue and Second Street.  Davis’ responsibilities will include design of the Palomar Hotel by Klimpton, a residential tower, and retail shops at street level.  Construction on Phase 2 is scheduled to begin in early 2009…  Phase 1 of the 2.5 million-square-foot development is started and includes construction of an underground parking garage, retail and office space, and public plazas.  Phase 1 should be completed sometime in 2010.

Where will Phoenicians gather outdoors to meet, debate?

With the demise of Patriots Square Park in downtown Phoenix and the limited amount of acreage at the now-under-construction Downtown Civic Space, where will the grand public gatherings be held in or around downtown Phoenix?

Barack Obama rally, Waterfront Park, Portland, OR May 18, 2008. (oregonianphoto]As a reference point from another Western U.S. city, Portland, OR’s Waterfront Park hosted a May 18, 2008 primary rally for Presidential candidate Barack Obama.  The local fire department estimated 75,000 people in attendance, while the Washington Post, in their coverage of this event, considered the record crowd to be the size of a city.

A proposal by the local chapters of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), pictured at left, “envisions a more formalized public space in downtown Phoenix which expands the proposed boundaries of the space into the streets, and invites casual public interaction with retail shops, food and beverage options, and shaded seating areas separated and protected by street bollards.”

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.]

A stroll through Patriots Square Park

One gentleman’s stroll through Patriots Square Park in downtown Phoenix with video camera in hand.  He’s happy to see the former park go to be replaced with the CityScape project now underway.  For background on the controversy surrounding the park’s demise, click here.

Downtown Voices statement on Patriots Square Park

Members of the Parks and Recreation Board:

Downtown Voices Coalition is a coalition of stakeholder organizations that embrace growth in downtown Phoenix, but is mindful that healthy growth should be based upon existing downtown resources.

On Thursday, February 8, 2007, RED Development unveiled its redesign for Patriots Square Park.  Downtown Voices Coalition finds that design unacceptable for the following reasons.

  • First, the design falls short of the minimum standard for any City of Phoenix public park by concealing the park inside a private development where its public function must necessarily be compromised, if not eliminated altogether.
  • Moreover, the design simply fails to live up to the letter or the spirit of the guiding principles established on September 28, 2006 by the Parks Board for the redesign of Patriots Square Park, or the guiding principles outlined in the Downtown Voices Coalition’s 2004 report, “Creating A Sustainable Downtown.”

We urge the Parks Board to reject RED’s current design.  We ask the Board to direct RED to try again, this time with direct public input in the design process.  For the past several months, the Parks Department has run a successful public-input process which allowed the public to say what it wanted in a redesigned Patriots Square Park.  But that process broke down when the public’s abstract ideas were translated into the current, disappointing design.

To fix the problem, the Parks Board should either engage an outside designer, or establish a public-input process focused on design.  Such a process should allow for the dynamic interchange between the designer and the public.  We urge the Parks Board to accept nothing less than a world-class design, vetted by the public itself.

On a personal note, this whole process has sidestepped the 800-pound gorilla in the room, namely the Downtown Civic Space that will be constructed across from ASU’s 411 Building between Van Buren and Fillmore on Central.  I was on the design review committee that selected EDAW as the design team for this park, and am intimately aware that this space, controlled and designed primarily for the university campus, will not have the same open civic space for assembly that is sought for Patriots Square Park.

A university facility, even one built by Phoenix and maintained by the Parks Department, is still ultimately an ASU facility.  It will not be our park, it will be a shared park, and it will not replace the city’s center park.  The City of Phoenix is attempting to move the center of the city to ASU’s campus, which I don’t feel is appropriate.  Rather, a great park with appropriate development contingent on the guiding principles the Parks Board recommended should be created.

Thank you.

Steve Weiss, Chair, Downtown Voices Coalition

Downtown Voices statement on Patriots Square Park

Mayor Gordon and Members of Council:

Downtown Voices Coalition supports the guiding principles established by the Parks and Recreation Board with its recommendations to the Phoenix City Council regarding the usage, designation, citizen input, and assignment of oversight to the future development of Patriots Square Park.

The key principle is that the contiguous space of two acres be included in the project so that crowds of 10,000 or more can gather for events, rallies, and other public functions.  Though the number of people who can attend events may be an arbitrary figure, the acreage is not.  By having the minimum of two acres contiguous, a true park at the City’s center address can be achieved.

We applaud Red Development for agreeing with our position that the park redevelopment process must begin with a clean piece of paper and not a series of artist concepts rendered without citizen input.  Mayor, if you and the City Council wish this to be a true City park, you should also concur that the process begins with the needs and desires of the City’s residents.

We trust you will follow our Parks and Recreation Board recommendations that will incorporate comprehensive input and ultimately advocate for the citizens of Phoenix.

Steve Weiss, Chair, Downtown Voices Coalition