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.