Thanks for Tuning In Presented by Richard Ruelas
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[Source: Richard Ruelas, Arizona Republic] — In a downtown Phoenix block full of historic buildings, the Baird Machine Shop might be the richest one. And it is a story that continues to be written. The 1928 square, brick building was one of several buildings from Phoenix’s original townsite days that was spared demolition by a Phoenix mayor. Another man, who would become Phoenix mayor, had the vision that the building could become an iconic restaurant that would draw tourists from around the nation.
That second mayor, Phil Gordon, might have been ahead of his time by proposing the restaurant in the late 1980s. But his vision came true, as the Baird Machine Shop houses the nationally renowned Pizzeria Bianco. “I just always knew there would be that attraction to the physical uniqueness of the building,” Gordon said of his 1987 proposal to remodel and revitalize the Baird building. “We saw the potential of (Heritage Square) being so unique,” he said.
So did then-Phoenix Mayor John Driggs. When he took office in 1970, he decided to save the buildings that still remained from Block 14, one of the first created in the city that still had original buildings on it. The Rosson House, which Driggs remembered seeing as a child, had been subdivided into apartments and had air-conditioning units hanging from its windows, said Darla Harmon, executive director at the Rosson House Museum.
The Baird Machine Shop, whose previous tenant was Milt Ponder’s Sign Shop, was one of the buildings bought by the city. It was just luck that a deal didn’t go through that would have leveled the old structures, Harmon said. “We’re a great place to put a parking garage, don’t you think?” she said. “(Developers) were looking around licking their lips.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Richard Ruelas, Arizona Republic] — The Works Progress Administration, a government public-works program started during the Great Depression, didn’t just leave Arizona with canals and sidewalks. It also preserved some personal human history. The project yielded oral histories of about 700 residents, most of whom were elderly when they were interviewed in the 1930s. Consider them slices of government-funded history.
The WPA, later renamed the Work Projects Administration, was part of the New Deal that President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted during the Great Depression. It included projects such as those canals and sidewalks. But writers needed jobs, too. So did teachers, librarians, artists, and other white-collar workers. But according to the Web site of the Library of Congress, there was a belief that these folks might not make good bricklayers. So the government launched the Federal Writers’ Project. Part of its mission was to document life histories. The project lasted from 1935 to 1939, before federal funding was yanked.
Melanie Sturgeon, director of Arizona’s History and Archives Division, said most of the interviews were done by the time federal funding dried up. “By the time 1939 was over,” she said, “they were just cleaning (the interviews) up.” Twelve boxes containing interviews are stored in the new Polly Rosenbaum Archives and History Building in downtown Phoenix. The material is available for viewing in the archives center, just west of the State Capitol. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Richard Ruelas, Arizona Republic] — First Fridays has been a tradition for more than 14 years in downtown Phoenix, growing into an event that sprawls across miles of downtown Phoenix and draws more than 10,000 people each month. It can seem daunting for newcomers or those who haven’t been in a while. It would be impossible to see every gallery or browse every booth in one night, especially those isolated in outlying areas. For those, it’s probably best to check ahead of time to see if they are holding a show that might draw your interest, or whether they’re even open that night.
A lot of the action is centered around three main areas. And a free city shuttle can get you to the outlying galleries. It’s best to figure out what type of experience you’re looking for, then head to the spot that can give it to you. [Click here for interactive map.]
Roosevelt Row. The epicenter of First Fridays, the Roosevelt area has high-end galleries. But it might be marked more for the row of vendors set up on Garfield Street between Fourth and Sixth streets, and along Fifth Street between Garfield and McKinley streets. There, you can buy $5 sunglasses, $2 strings of beads, handmade necklaces, and small paintings. “In the beginning (of the night), it’s families, high-school and college kids,” said Celia Chavarin, 34, who was selling homemade handbags at a recent First Fridays evening.
As the night goes on, the people become a little bit more colorful, a little more artistic. “That’s a good way to put it,” Chavarin said. She gestured toward her mother, Lupe, who makes the handbags. “It was her first time, so it was a big of a shock.” This is an area where families can wander with strollers. They can catch a bit of art, browse affordable vendors and feel that they’ve been out to First Fridays.
Grand Avenue. Fewer people, no vendors, and a little more space between galleries, Grand Avenue allows more time to concentrate on the art hanging on the walls, not the people walking up and down the street. Gallery owners on the diagonal street call themselves the true artistic home of First Fridays. “Here, people are looking at the art,” said Steve Gomph, owner of gallery Deus Ex Machina. “There (Roosevelt Row), people are mainly there for the street experience.”
There is street parking along Grand Avenue. And although there are a lot of galleries, they are a bit spread out. Expect to walk a block or two between stops.
Melrose. This is the least concentrated of the First Fridays “areas” and the one with the fewest galleries. But the night provides an opportunity to explore the funky shops and antique stores of this burgeoning corner of the city around Seventh Avenue and Indian School Road. “I drive through it all the time, but I’m always headed somewhere else,” said Beth Brezinsci, 37, of Scottsdale, sitting at Copper Star Coffee, at Seventh Avenue and Heatherbrae Drive. “This is a good opportunity to explore.”
A dog-washing shop has animals out for adoption. Vendors are set up in a parking lot outside the coffee shop and Revolver Records, at Seventh Avenue north of Indian School Road. Some antique furniture stores stay open late.
[Source: Richard Ruelas, Arizona Republic] — Five years ago, people thought Johnny Chu was nuts to close down his successful Tempe restaurant and open one in downtown Phoenix. “A lot of investors dropped out,” Chu said, including a member of his own family. “My uncle tried to talk me out of it.” But Chu’s investment in Phoenix’s city center has paid off. And he has doubled down, opening two more spots within the same square mile. “Downtown has grown faster than I expected it,” he said, touring his new place, Sens, an Asian tapas and sake bar that opens early next month.
Sens joins Chu’s original downtown Phoenix restaurant, Fate, and the outdoor martini bar adjacent to Fate called Next Door. All three bring a much-needed pulse to the heart of the nation’s fifth-largest city. “It’s been asleep for 22 years. Up until 2005, nobody would be walking at night,” Chu said. His wife, Linda, added, “They’d run.”
All three Chu restaurants have opened in what had been abandoned buildings. Fate took over a brick house along Fourth Street, just south of Roosevelt Street. Next Door took the plywood off the windows at the house next door. Sens takes a spot in what used to be a business plaza hidden behind thick wrought-iron gates. They’re the kinds of buildings people pass every day, without a thought to their potential. “You really don’t pay attention to the beauty,” Chu said. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]