The Friday Urban Dispatch for 10 July 2015: comments on Roosevelt Row, civics lesson, and moving Phoenix.
As part of this blog’s The Friday Five series, The Friday Urban Dispatch is a unique boots-on-the-ground report on the urban condition in Phoenix.
Roosevelt Streets Improvements. This week marked the completion and public dedication of the Roosevelt Street streetscape improvements, the anchor of which is shade structures designed by the artist Meejin Yoon. There have also been some controversial planter pots installed on the south side of Roosevelt between 1 and 3 Streets. I like them. I think they add a level of whimsy and artistic quality to a street that is supposedly about those things.
BIDding for Roosevelt, part II. As part of this month’s Hance Park Conservancy meeting (of which I am a member of their Board of Directors), a presentation was given by Nancy Hormann, the consultant helping to organize the proposed Roosevelt Row Business Improvement District. While on the surface, this is a good idea, the devil’s in the details. Of great concern is the non-inclusion of major cultural anchors in that part of the world, such as Burton Barr Central Library and Hance Park. A business improvement district, it would seem, would be more robust and more viable if it drew from a bigger pool of support.
Entertainment districts and civics lessons. The City of Phoenix is set to create the first of its three allotted “entertainment districts” in downtown Phoenix. As I explained to the Downtown Phoenix Partnership on their Facebook page (because there is no wrong time for a civics lesson), this entertainment district is something that is a function of Arizona Revised Statues (Title 4, Section 207). It has nothing to do with what we conceive of entertainment. Nor is meant the Legends Entertainment District, which is neither legendary nor entertaining. All it has to do with is that in this entertainment district, the State Liquor Board may entertain issuing a liquor license that is within 300 feet of a school or church, subject to the customary and normal approval mechanisms like everywhere else.
Moving Phoenix. In August, Phoenix voters will vote for Mayor and those in the odd-numbered Council Districts will vote for their councilperson. This blog recommends returning each incumbent to their seats. Five ballot questions are also for consideration and this blog recommends a YES vote on all of them, especially on Proposition 104, the adoption of Transit 2050. The package involves improvements to Phoenix’s public transportation network as well as financing much-needed repairs to our streets. If Phoenix is to have any chance to compete in the world economy, public transportation is a key component. Voters should vote YES on Proposition 104.
Cities attract talent. If Phoenix is to be a world city, which I think is a necessary aspiration, then it means we must not be afraid of new ideas from outside our own boundaries. Come to think of it, it’s what ALL cities must do. So it has been extremely frustrating that many in downtown Phoenix lament the opening of Meejin Yoon’s “Shadow Play” art installation mainly because Ms. Yoon is not a local artist. If that line of thinking is valid, should the Phoenix Public Library only shelve books by local authors? Should the Phoenix Art Museum only show works by Arizona artists? Or should the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks only field players from the area? Of course not because that is not good for all. There is a definite place for local involvement and the advancing of local interests. It is not, though, in our exposure to the arts and the humanities. We must not feel threatened by the broadening of our horizons.
As 2014 winds down, let’s look back on the year that was in downtown Phoenix. In this first post of four, I’ll look at downtown Phoenix’s strengths.
[editor’s note: Over the next few days, we’ll be publishing our year-end Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014 series. In four posts, we’ll look at downtown’s strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities that shaped its 2014 and set the stage for 2015 and beyond. The quartet of posts from last year provide indispensable context to the urban condition and are worth your read.]
Downtown Phoenix In Review 2014: I. Strengths
1. Hance Park Master Plan reveal. One of the big urban events in 2014 was the unveiling of the Hance Park Master Plan in March. The new Hance Park Master Plan makes a statement for urban public space in Phoenix. NYC-based !melk (led by Jerry van Eyck) worked with of Scottsdale-based Weddle Gilmore and Phoenix-based Floor Associates to create a fantastic plan for the 32.5-acre urban space. The Hance Park Conservancy, Phoenix’s first conservancy dedicated to a specific park, is now working to coordinate the $118 million fundraising project to translate paper to reality. Parks and public space are an integral part of the urban experience and this opportunity to create a defining urban space in Phoenix is an opportunity that we cannot let slip by.
2. Upgrades and maintenance at some of Phoenix’s best public art projects. Two of Phoenix’s best public art projects received major upgrades in 2014: Janet Echelman’s “Her Secret is Patience” at Civic Space Park received a new net and upgraded lighting in early December and two new artist-designed terrazzo floors at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport opened as part of the Terminal 3 SkyTrain expansion. The Airport’s terrazzo floors and the Echelman at Civic Space Park are, in my opinion, two of the nicest things that we have in this city and both show that we can do fantastic art projects in this city.
3. Music festivals in downtown Phoenix. March featured two big music festivals in downtown Phoenix: the VIVA PHX festival on March 7 and the McDowell Mountain Music Festival at the end of that month. Both festivals brought energy downtown and, most importantly, people. As I wrote in March right after the VIVA PHX festival, it seemed like downtown Phoenix was a “city in potentia.” The question is how can we keep that energy happening all the time?
4. Overwhelmingly unified opposition to SB 1062. In February, the Republican-led State Legislature passed Senate Bill 1062, a bill that would make it legal for individuals and businesses to deny services to others based on one’s religious beliefs, which is a thinly veiled assault on civil rights for everyone. Drafted by the anti-LGBTQ “Center for Arizona Policy,” the legislation would have unfairly targeted our LGBTQ friends, neighbors, and colleagues. After the bill was passed in the Arizona State Legislature, scores of Phoenix (and Arizona) chambers of commerce, community organizations, and elected bodies came out in near-unison against this damaging legislation. Governor Brewer ultimately vetoed the bill.
5. Groundbreaking of ASU’s Arizona Center for Law and Society. On 13 November, Arizona State University and its community partners broke ground on the new downtown Phoenix home of the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, the Arizona Center for Law and Society. The building is set to open in time for the Fall 2016 semester and it will bring more development and density for downtown’s University District. Time will tell how open the building will remain to the public but I remain optimistic.
I’ve been in email contact with someone about a future column in a national newspaper about public art in airports, especially at Phoenix Sky Harbor.
Apologies for the delayed post — this has been a crazy past 24 hours.
I’ve been in email contact with someone about a future column in a national newspaper about public art in airports, especially at Phoenix’s own Sky Harbor Airport. I thought that I would share, as my contributing post to the 15 posts in 15 days (on short notice), some thoughts I shared with the author of the column:
I’ve said for many years that a great city requires great art. Phoenix’s public art program is one of the best in the country. Likewise and by corollary, an airport is the welcoming center for a city’s visitors and, therefore, a great airport requires great art. Traveling by airplane isn’t exactly the most fun thing to do anymore, unfortunately, and an airport’s art helps to humanize the traveling experience. There’s also a practical dimension to it as well. Instead of placing carpet on the ground which will have to be replaced in a few years’ time anyway, why not place a beautiful terrazzo floor that will last generations? Instead of looking at a blank wall while in line at the security checkpoint, why not look at a gallery exhibit? Instead of looking at a blank wall with artificial lighting while you’re waiting in line to get your rental car, why not have high clerestory windows with dichroic glass that produce dancing colors on the floors and walls?
What are your thoughts and ideas?
The PHX Sky Train opens tomorrow and the art is the attraction! Learn about a tour that takes place tomorrow that showcases the new public art.
The Sky Harbor Airport’s PHX SkyTrain opens tomorrow, after some hiccups and delays. It will make traveling between light rail, the east economy parking garages, and Terminal 4 easier. (The remaining terminals as well as the rental car center will be linked in 2015 and 2020, respectively.)
Come see the spectacular public art at each of the new SkyTrain stations! A tour begins at 12:15pm from the 44th St SkyTrain station. (Unlike the image above, the tours are tomorrow and not in 100 years!)
Pictures will follow.
A picture of Her Secret is Patience, the public art piece in downtown Phoenix.
I think it goes without saying that my all-time favorite piece of public art hangs right here in downtown Phoenix. It’s Her Secret is Patience, created by the artist Janet Echelman, for the Downtown Phoenix Civic Space Park.
It, like most things in downtown Phoenix, photographs better at night than during the day.