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Jane’s Walk celebrates community art, architecture

[Source: Sadie Jo Smokey, The Arizona Republic]

Next weekend, Valley residents will take to the streets to learn about art and architecture in their community, and honor Jane Jacobs.

Jane’s Walk is a series of free neighborhood walking tours that takes place around the world on the first weekend of May to coincide with Jacobs’ birthday, May 4, 1916.

Former Phoenix resident Yuri Artibise, who relocated to Canada this month, helped organize Jane’s Walks the past few years. Artibise said Jacobs was an activist who championed the interests and knowledge of residents over a centralized approach to city building.

“It’s meant to promote and celebrate walkable urbanism,” Artibise said. “Last year the walk in Phoenix’s warehouse district had 90 people.”

Christina Plante and Ed Lebow are guiding the walk in Sunnyslope on May 7.

Plante, who lives and works in Sunnyslope, and Lebow, Phoenix’s public art director, will offer a personal take on the history and planning of public art in north central Phoenix.

The 2-mile walk begins at the Sunnyslope Transit Center, 8927 N. Third St.

Besides offering a look at public art along Dunlap and Central avenues, the walk will provide a lesson on the history of city-financed public art.

In the late 1980s, the Junior League of Phoenix initiated a canal beautification project. Financial support came from a National Endowment for the Arts grant, Salt River Project, Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale, Chandler and Gilbert. Phoenix committed to five demonstration projects along canals.

“The canal project came out of a long, long effort,” Lebow said. “The Junior League of Phoenix wanted to show how the canal banks could be better public space for the public. It took a lot of planning for Sunnyslope residents to accomplish that.”

The Calle 16 Jane’s Walk will feature an up-and-coming arts and culture district on 16th Street, focusing on the Hispanic population of the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Mesa Jane’s Walk will highlight downtown and historic Mesa.

Information: www.janeswalkusa.org.

Jane’s Walk Details

Three walks will take place May 7 and 8th:

  • Sunnyslope: May 7th, 8 to 10 a.m., Sunnyslope Transit Center, 8927 N. Third St. Information: christina. plante@jcl.com or 602-870-6060, Ext. 1174.
  • Mesa: May 7th, 9 to 11 a.m., meet at the south end of the Mesa Arts Center’s Shadow Walk, 1 E. Main St. Information: janeswalkmesa@gmail.com
  • Calle 16: May 8th, 8 to 10 a.m., begin at Way Cool Hair, 1524 E. McDowell Road, and end at Barrio Café, 2814 N. 16th St.

Historic buildings in downtown Phoenix struggle to survive

[By Evie Carpenter, Downtown Devil]

Phoenix may be young in comparison to the old, Gothic mainstays of the East coast, but as venerable buildings like the Ramada Inn continue to be razed, many community activists are trying to reignite an appreciation for historic preservation in the nation’s fifth largest city.

The Hotel San Carlos has been in continuous operation since 1928. A building must be over 50 years old and meet other requirements to be added to the Phoenix Property Register and designated as historic. (Evie Carpenter/DD)

“Phoenix in general needs to be more aware of its history,” said Phoenix policy and research analyst, urbanist and blogger Yuri Artibise:

I think the buildings provide a sense of place, they provide what’s kind of called a city’s DNA.

Robert Melikian, a historic preservationist and author of “Vanishing Phoenix,” said that preserving a city’s old buildings helps add character to an otherwise bland concrete jungle.

Historical buildings “give you a sense of personal identity to the local area. Otherwise, there’d be just the same high-rise buildings in every downtown,” said Melikian, who also co-owns downtown’s Hotel San Carlos, which has been in continuous operation since 1928. “They show that we are all connected — they’re a link to the past. They’re time machines that show us what was important in the old days.”

In order to raise awareness of the threats to historical buildings in the Phoenix area, a group of neighborhood leaders formed the Phoenix Historic Neighborhoods Coalition, said G.G. George, president of Encanto Citizens Association and vice president of the coalition. Last year the coalition compiled a list of threatened historic buildings called the 2010 Most enDangered Dozen.

Donna Reiner, who acted as the chair of the enDangered Dozen Committee, said the coalition made the list to highlight buildings specifically in Phoenix, rather than building in Arizona or nationwide.

The buildings we chose “didn’t have to be on the historic, city or national register,” Reiner said. “It was more (an issue) of who had built it, who had lived in it, what was its connection to history.”

Reiner added that the physical condition of the building, its owners and whether the building was in foreclosure were also considered when choosing the Dozen. Neglect is one of the main reasons that a building becomes endangered, she said.

Artibise and Reiner said they agree that some may not view the buildings they chose as historic because they are not as old as historic buildings in cities on the East coast. Compared to those cities, however, Phoenix is much younger –- not yet 150 years old.

“You hear a lot people say, ‘Well, they’re not that old. It’s not like we’re tearing down 200-year-old buildings. They’re only like 50 years old,’” Artibise said:

But, you know, you need something to be 50 years old before it gets to be 100 years old.

A building must be over 50 years old and meet other “standards for integrity and historical significance” to be added to the Phoenix Property Register and designated as historic, according to the city’s Historic Preservation Office website. However, residential owners can designate their own neighborhoods as historic within the guidelines set by the city of Phoenix, Melikian said.

George said she has been in her historic home, located in the Encanto neighborhood, for 41 years. The neighborhood has been on the national register of historic neighborhoods since 1984.

Phoenix has 34 other residential historic districts, according to the city’s Historic Preservation Office’s website.

Although Melikian said that Phoenix has had success in preserving historic residential areas, he is unhappy with the efforts made to preserve historical commercial buildings.

“Commercial (historical preservation) is almost non-existent in (Phoenix’s) historic preservation,” he said:

It’s pretty much up to the community-minded owner whether they want to save the building or not. There’s nothing the city can do to stop them from tearing down a building.

Melikian suggested the city allow the public to designate a commercial building as historic rather than letting the owner of the building make the decision.

“We give too much authority to the owner, and we have a very weak preservation ordinance,” he said.

Nonetheless, Reiner said she thinks the city and groups like the Phoenix Historic Neighborhood Coalition “do a really good job of promoting historic preservation and explaining why it’s good.”

Both Reiner and Melikian mentioned that they believe Proposition 207, which passed in 2006, hinders historic preservation as well. The proposition, also known as the Private Property Rights Protection Act, states that the government may take private property as long as they offer “just compensation” to the owner of the property. Compensation may occur if an owner sees his or her property value decrease due to “the enactment of a land use law,” which includes historic overlay, according to CountySupervisors.org.

“People would misguidedly say that a historic overlay means I can’t do anything to my property, which is not true,” Reiner said:

If you are in a historic district and you do have historic overlay, your property values will remain more constant than if you don’t.

However, Melikian said that Proposition 207 scares the government away from designating properties as historic in order to avoid lawsuits.

“The government is paralyzed by Prop. 207 … but the government can’t designate anything historic because then they are going to be sued by people saying that they diminished the value of their property,” he said.

Despite the potential impediments of Prop. 207, if a building is designated as historic the owner will often renovate it to make it more practical. The city’s award-winning Adaptive Reuse Program was created in 2008 to support property owners who wish to modify their building for a new purpose.

“Some of these buildings, especially the older homes, were built for a specific purpose in a specific time, and times have changed so I think you can adapt,” Artibise said. “I think you need to work with what you have and use that as a starting point as opposed to destroying everything and starting from scratch.”

Melikian listed a variety of different uses for an adapted historic building and said that the reused building could become a novelty.

“History sells — it’s great,” Melikian said:

People love to go to historical buildings, restaurants, bakeries, ice cream shops, coffee shops. That’s the greatest thing — a historic building with a new use.

For many buildings in the downtown Phoenix area, though, the adaptive reuse program came too late.

Melikian said he wished the Fleming building on First Avenue and Washington Street was still standing, observing that it had “lasted almost 100 years but could have lasted another 100” and that it held the first elevator in the territory.

“It could have been a museum for youngsters to see what it was like in the 1890s and that was torn down for a high rise,” he said. “That building could have been used as a gateway, like a grand entrance to the high rise … now it’s just a nice high rise, same as in a dozen other cities.”

In the 1984 Historic Phoenix Commercial Properties Survey approximately 143 historic commercial buildings had lasted from about the 1920s to 1984, but 55 buildings have been knocked down in the last 25 years, Melikian said.

“It’s a terrible shame that no one cares about,” he said.

George described historic preservation as holding on to Phoenix’s past, which becomes vital when looking toward the city’s future.

“If we lose our history, we lose anything, any way to make decisions in the future,” she said:

We need to know what happened in the past to help us make comprehensive and intelligent decisions in the future.

Contact the reporter at ecarpenter@asu.edu

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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LEEDing the way in downtown Phoenix

[Source: Yuri Artibise, Downtown Phoenix Journal] — Last week’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo wasn’t all about trade show booths and discussions.  On Friday afternoon, conference attendees got out and explored some of the Valley’s green buildings and innovative sites.  Of particular interest to DPJ readers was a tour of five urban infill sites in Downtown Phoenix.  [Note: Read the full blog entry at LEEDing the way in downtown Phoenix.]

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

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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.]

Help plan route for May 2 Jane’s Walk in downtown Phoenix

janeswalk4

[Source: Yuri Arbitise, Jane’s Walk Phoenix Coordinator] — The May 2, 2009 Jane’s Walk Phoenix will focus on the northern part of downtown Phoenix between 7th Ave. and 7th St, and Van Buren and Interstate 10 (i.e., Roosevelt neighborhood, Evans Churchill neighborhood, and ASU Downtown Phoenix Campus).

While this area in mind, walk organizers would appreciate your responses to as many of the questions below as you like (five would be great)!   Your answers will help in selecting a specific walk route and identifying features and concepts to point out during the course of the walk.  For this survey, “neighborhood” refers to the northern part of downtown as explained above.

In addition, with your permission, organizers would like to profile some respondent’s answers in the Jane’s Walk Phoenix Blog.  However, if you would rather your answers to be anonymous or confidential, that’s no problem!).  Just cut and paste your responses into an e-mail to janeswalkphx@gmail.com

  1. What are some important meeting spaces in your neighborhood? (important for work, food, thinking, recreation, laughing with friends, local politics — think broadly)
  2. What spaces are you most proud of in your neighborhood?
  3. What are some important green-spaces?
  4. What are some interesting short-cuts you take?
  5. Where do kids like to play? Adults? Retired folks?
  6. Where are some spaces that feel more private, like a small urban oasis?
  7. Do any buildings have unusual marks or features?
  8. What is your favorite adaptive use project? (older buildings that have been reconfigured into different uses)?
  9. Where do you feel most comfortable?
  10. Are there any important historical spaces in your neighborhood?
  11. Where do you not feel safe?
  12. What is a space that you really dislike?
  13. What is your favorite mixed-use location (places that mix retail, business, and residential)?
  14. Are there spaces you would like to see change?
  15. Are therer spaces/features you want to see preserved?
  16. Is there an important question or idea that should be talked about by everyone?

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

jacobs

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.

Phoenix’s transformation into big city has benefits, burdens

[Source: Yuri Artibise, Grady Gammage Jr., and Nancy Welch, Morrison Institute] — Columnist Gregory Rodriguez wrote recently in the Los Angeles Times: “No city is more burdened by its myth than LA.  That’s because ours, crafted by regional boosters even before the birth of LA as a modern American city, is the ultimate myth: Los Angeles as paradise.  It makes the gulf between the ideal and the real deeper here than anywhere else.”

Other than its eponymous pyrotechnic bird, Phoenix has not been a city of deep myth.  Only a few movies have been set here.  The closest thing to a signature song is about a guy driving away from LA, musing on what his lost love will be doing “by the time I get to Phoenix.”  Yet, Phoenix and Los Angeles have an apparent shared heritage: huge water projects, real-estate developers, parking lots, palm trees, and faux Spanish architecture.

Our city seems so obviously the younger sister of a Hollywood starlet that comparison and emulation are inevitable.  The Phoenix/LA conceit is deep-seated, chronic, and nearly always offered as something to avoid.  Consider just part of a collection from a 1996 Phoenix Gazette column by Bill Hart:

  • “Do you want this to be another Detroit or New York or, worse yet, another Los Angeles?” – Former Gov. Howard Pyle, 1987
  • “We don’t want to be another Los Angeles.  Nobody wants that.” – Jim Marsh, former director, Arizona Department of Commerce, 1991
  • In a recent poll, 90% of Arizonans said it would be bad if Phoenix became more like Los Angeles. – The Arizona Republic, 1991
  • “Phoenix still can avoid becoming another Los Angeles by building a balanced transportation system.” – David Baron, director, Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, 1993
  • There are things that can be done to stop the Valley’s slide toward becoming another Los Angeles. – The Republic, 1994

Phoenix, a city often accused of having no identity, certainly has long known what it doesn’t want to be.  What is it we are so afraid of?  All big cities have mixed images, but the uber-negative view of Los Angeles is grounded in three attributes: smog, congestion, and sprawl.  These problems and the comparisons between Phoenix and LA are worth a closer examination.  [Note: to read the full op-ed piece, click here.]