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Why I’m opposed to a First Street dog park

There’s been a lively debate on Facebook about the merits of yet another incarnation of a downtown Phoenix dog park. The latest iteration has the dog park as a series of two linear parks on 1st Street between Hance Park and Roosevelt Street. One of the latest plans is seen in the very long diagram to the right. At the top is Moreland St and Hance Park. At the bottom is Roosevelt St. North is up.

I have to admit that I’m not a dog owner and that I’ve never had a pet (save for a fish that I “rescued” — yes, Virginia, there’s a VERY long story to that one). I did support the first iteration of a downtown Phoenix dog park when it was proposed to be built on the site of the former Sahara/Ramada Inn at 1st St and Polk. I was supportive of a dog park when it was considered to be built at Hance Park, although with growing reservations.

But this latest iteration, put forth by Sean Sweat, the urbanist and downtown Phoenix resident, seems to fall short on a few different levels.

One of my qualms is that this location is not located in any current residential areas. The major buildings near this proposed location are the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS in the former KPNX building, the 1001 N Central Ave office building, and the Firehouse art space.   The Post Roosevelt Square apartments and condominiums as well as Portland Place are on the west side of Central Avenue and the heart of the historic Roosevelt neighborhood also falls to the west of Central. For those living in Post Roosevelt Square, the Portland Parkway is leaps and bounds more suitable. For residents of the Roosevelt neighborhood, there is Roosevelt Park on 3rd Avenue. To access this location, residents and their dogs would have to cross (at least) Central Avenue. I don’t see this happening.

Another major qualm that I have is that it creates inconsistency in 1st Street. 1st Street is a very wide street all the way from Washington to Hance Park, and then north of Hance Park to McDowell. Although some blocks of 1st St have been altered with new car parking facilities, this would be a great opportunity to have some sort of a grand linear mall that extends over a mile. I remember that when I visited Boston last May, I was so impressed with the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, a grand linear park that runs from the Boston Public Garden to the Back Bay neighborhood. Although 1st Ave isn’t as wide as “Comm Ave,” it could be a grand statement for Phoenix. In fact, an idea put forth for the redesign of Hance Park is making 1st St from Roosevelt to McDowell a linear park that includes the existing Cancer Survivors’ Park.

My biggest qualm, and one that I have expressed repeatedly and continually about Phoenix’s construction habits, is that this project spurns existing infrastructure in favor of building new infrastructure. We have great park spaces in downtown Phoenix that could be absolutely grand for this. Instead of building a new facility, how about taking a part of the Portland Parkway and making that a dog park? Or what about Roosevelt Park? Or even Hance Park? Why must we not look to our existing stock of infrastructure and see what we already have? As a preservationist, we are taught that “the greenest building is the one already there.” So, too, the greenest park is the one that’s already there. Or, if we have our hearts set on building a dog park east of Central, let’s use one of the dirt lots that are a scar on the community.

There is a lot more to urban vitality than dog parks. I think that any urbanist or student of urban design and urban policy knows that. We must look at different ideas and not pin downtown Phoenix’s salvation du jour to be a dog park.

  • http://twitter.com/courtnush Courtney Nush (@cour

    While the Portland strip is a good piece of grass that I'm glad serves the residents of those condos/apartments 1) it's not a city-maintained park so if it was turned officially into a dog park I imagine it would be exclusively for the residents of those communities. 2) Continuing with that, if it were to become a full-fledged, fenced, off-leash dog park those who use the park for non-dog activities would essentially lose their neighborhood amenity. 3) If you are skeptical that residents won't cross Central (which I disagree with, it's a perfectly safe intersection so I'm not sure what the barrier is there) then using the Portland Place Park or 3rd Ave wouldn't serve any residents east of Central–the densely-populated Alta lofts being at the top of that list.

    I appreciate and applaud your recognition of reusing existing infrastructure whenever possible for buildings, but I don't know that I agree that applies to parks, especially specific-function parks targeted at serving residents who are most likely to use it the closer it is to where they live. Creating a Field of Dreams dog park in BFE Hance Park isn't going to convince people to walk farher–they might use it on special occasions, but daily their dogs are going to continue crapping on concrete while on a leash.

    Regarding your point about inconsistency on 1st street: Part of putting it there would be to tie it into the design of the face lift that the street is already undergoing. Second, it would act as a much more visible gateway to Hance from Roosevelt.

    Another big point that wasn't discussed is that a dog park in this area would cause more people walking past businesses–marketing opportunities that downtown business owners need. If we could have gotten more people walking past Just Breathe could it have survived? Wouldn't concentrated pedestrian routes to/from this park and places like Alta create vibrancy that could help businesses & street safety?

    We should grab coffee at Giant soon and discuss more.

  • Alex

    good points a plenty here,and if it serves the loft residents primarily,why not just build it right there in front of the lofts which are already almost 100% utilized by them exclusively and filled with folks taking their dogs out-just throw a fence around it.

  • Bob Diehl

    Hello Ed, nice thinkpiece. I live along Portland Park, and have wondered why it can't just be turned into an off-leash dog park – several hundred nearby residents own dogs. Portland Park is one the the prime reasons I moved back to downtown Phoenix after we empty nested. I want to keep my dog this time!

    I found out just recently why Portland Park exists today – Post Properties negotiated it back into existence when they built almost 500 residential units in what was a wasteland here during the 1990's – the City built the Park somewhat according to its original dimensions and the residential development agreed to maintain it. One assumes this commitment binds subsequent owners of the complex – the park continues to be maintained years after Post sold it.

    Turning all or part of it into a dog park is certainly a negotiation someone can try to have with the City and the current complex owner. I don;t kn ow if the condo developer or empty lot owner is party to the maintanence agreement by now.

    Let's continue to have multi-party dialogues about this – it's far from a finished project anywhere but abundantly a necessary one!

  • michael

    [Ed. note: This comment has been slightly edited for language.]

    Hi, Courtney. You make a good point re: the crossing of Central, or any other major thoroughfare, versus the utility of a conveniently located dog park to serve those who live in condos and apartments and thus lack available leash-free space for proper dog maintenance.

    However, I must posit, on behalf of all reasonable folk, the following: if you don't have a home which provides a yard or other appropriate dog-play space available for a dog, don't buy a dog. If you already own a dog, please take this into consideration should you be forced to relocate.

    Dog ownership is not a right, it is a privilege which carries a serious responsibility. It is your job to take care of your dog, not the job of the city, or the taxpayer, or anyone else. If private citizens in the area would like to purpose some land towards a dog park, they can very well pool their money together and purchase some of the expansive amount of unused and aesthetically abominable land which is three minutes' walk from 1st and Roosevelt. This would achieve the goal of a dog park in the "right" location and satisfy the wave of the self-entitled newcomers riding the wave of gentrification without deliberately and senselessly harming the art spaces and local businesses which are the only thing separating downtown from the plasticine suburbs from which hail the influx of new neighbors and friends for whom we are so eager to provide half-caf lattes and "authentic" atmosphere.

    It's an insight rife with wisdom that what would most help these spaces is if parking for dedicated patrons could be even more limited in order to make the area more inviting for passersby who come not to view entertainments and purchase art, but rather to allow their dogs to poop. I can see it now – Roosevelt Row Plastic Gloves, Firehouse-branded scoops – the opportunities to expand the downtown art scene are endless.

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