Statement on the Central & McDowell proposed apartments

My statement to the City of Phoenix Site Plan Review team concerning the proposed apartments for Central & McDowell in midtown Phoenix.

[editorial note: The following statement was given to the Site Plan Review hearing regarding the proposed apartment complex at Central Avenue and McDowell Road in midtown Phoenix earlier today. For additional context and comment, please read the “Almost Missed: Central & McDowell” essay, published 18 July 2014.]

Central & McDowell siteAs we have seen this afternoon, a siteplan for an apartment complex at a key corner in the City of Phoenix has been presented.

Many people here have talked about where this building is but I want to explore a different dimension: when this building is in the Phoenix urban story. Recently, Downtown Phoenix played host to two large-scale music festivals attracting thousands of people, the VIVA PHX festival on March 7 and the weekend-long McDowell Mountain Music Festival at Hance Park at the end of March. Today also marks the return to classes for the students at Arizona State University, including the almost-20,000 students studying at the downtown Phoenix campus alone. Major events of the February 2015 Super Bowl will be sited in Downtown.

Speaking of Hance Park, over two thousand people showed up at Hance Park on March 27 to see the unveiling of the new Hance Park Master Plan to get a feel for what public space and the urban ethic in Phoenix will be. Part of the success of that plan depends on increased density around the park; while this project provides modest density, it is nowhere near what it can or should be. Actually, the success of many urban-focused initiatives depends on increased density in our urban core. There is interest from both current and future urban dwellers—and from those in the urban academy—that the City of Phoenix get this urban moment right.

The City of Phoenix’s zoning scheme cites this area as a “downtown gateway” as part of the Downtown Zoning plan. I see it, too, as a midtown gateway, welcoming people to midtown Phoenix and our grand street, Central Avenue. As part of the Downtown Gateway, buildings are allowed to go up to 250 feet. While I am keenly aware that height and good urban design are not always congruent, a good urban design makes gestures to its geographic place and its moment in history. This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put something of quality compatible with place and time on this site…but this project falls woefully short.

As City Hall and community leaders work through their approval or disapproval processes, there is only one question that should be considered: “Is this project worthy of being a gateway to downtown Phoenix?”

Thank you.

Replay: In Conversation With City Council Candidates

Here is a replay of my conversations from earlier in 2013 with Phoenix City Council members-elect Laura Pastor (District 4) and Kate Gallego (District 8).

Earlier this year, I embarked on a series of one-on-one Google+ Hangouts with the four finalist candidates for Phoenix City Council. I thought that I’d replay my conversations with the two winning candidates, Laura Pastor in District 4 and Kate Gallego in District 8.

City Council ICW

IN CONVERSATION WITH LAURA PASTOR / recorded 4 October 2013

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boEvAXEhy9A

Laura Pastor is the Director of the Achieving a College Education program at South Mountain Community College and is the daughter of U.S. Congressman Ed Pastor. She serves on the Governing Board for the Phoenix Union High School District.

IN CONVERSATION WITH KATE GALLEGO / recorded 13 October 2013

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1cA3gLjGwg

Kate Gallego works in strategic planning and economic development at Salt River Project. She serves on the City of Phoenix Central City Village Planning Committee and is also the Vice Chair of MyPlanPHX.

Replay: Sky Harbor Terminal 2

A replay of a November post in which I discuss why the demise of Sky Harbor’s Terminal 2 is greatly exaggerated

[editor’s note: This post was originally published on 3 November 2013 as “Sky Harbor Terminal 2: Its demise is greatly exaggerated.” As a result of this essay’s publication, I was invited to appear on KJZZ’s Here and Now on 6 November to discuss, alongside Alison King of Modern Phoenix, Deborah Ostreicher of Sky Harbor Airport, and host Steve Goldstein, what really will be happening to Terminal 2. Enjoy!]

The year was 1962. A brand new building arrived at Phoenix’s fledgling Sky Harbor Airport: its second terminal building. The building was made for jets — the old Terminal 1 (opened 10 years previously but demolished in 1991) saw the golden age of propeller aviation. Toward its end, Terminal 1 was home to Southwest Airlines before they moved into the just recently opened Barry M. Goldwater Terminal 4 at the east end of the airport campus.

Fast forward just over half a century from Terminal 2’s opening in 1962 to 2013. The airport is now a regional hub for two major airlines – Southwest Airlines and U.S. Airways – and ha nonstop international service to cities in Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the United Kingdom. But Terminal 2, at 51 years old, still plays its part in Phoenix aviation.

Sky Harbor Terminal 2, ca. 1962 (photo credit: Chanen Construction)
Sky Harbor Terminal 2, ca. 1962 (photo credit: Chanen Construction)

Walking in to Terminal 2 is a different experience than its more modern — and more austere — counterparts. At the west end of the terminal headhouse building (now over the security checkpoints) is a mural by the late French-American artist Paul Coze. “The Phoenix” is one of Phoenix’s best midcentury murals and the phoenix bird is also replicated in his sculpture outside the Town and Country shopping center at 20th St and Camelback. In 2000, artwork from Terminal 3 was also placed in the Terminal 2 headhouse – a series of two paintings by the Western artist Billy Schenck and a 3D copper piece by Jose Bermudez.

When the Phoenix City Council signed off on new Sky Harbor Terminal 3 expansion project, it was mentioned that Terminal 2 would be closed. Many in the historic preservation community thought that by “closed,” the airport meant that it would be demolished. The Arizona Preservation Foundation wrote on its Facebook page that “[n]ot only will it close, it will be demolished.” A column in the East Valley (Phoenix) Tribune lamented that “The airport announced this past that it intends to spend millions of dollars to expand Terminal 3 to the east of Terminal 2, the latter destined to be torn down. It was only a matter of time.”

I’m here to say this: The demise of Terminal 2 is greatly exaggerated. While it will certainly close in the wake of Terminal 3’s westward expansion, the headhouse — the building with midcentury charm, the Paul Coze mural, and 51 years of history — will not be demolished. I have had conversations with high-ranking airport officials as well as those who work at Sky Harbor’s Airport Museum, the largest airport museum in the country and one of the largest in the world. Even if the building was slated for demolition, there is a great team (including myself) in place to protect, preserve, and conserve all of artwork that is in Terminal 2. The rumors on the street, while completely unofficial, are that the terminal headhouse will be converted into offices.

As we go forward, we need to get the facts straight and our stories correct. Nostalgia is an important part of place, placemaking, and propinquity: Terminal 2 is one of those wonderful structures in Phoenix’s history as well as in aviation history. But we need to be mindful that there are systems, teams, and people working on protecting the Paul Coze mural as well as the other portable art works in that building. Nobody wants to see those works damaged or destroyed.

Sky Harbor Terminal 3 - Stained GlassIt is necessary that we do not let our guard down. In addition to the artwork in Terminal 2, there are spectacular pieces of non-portable art in Terminal 3. I am thinking of the award-winning terrazzo floor by the baggage claim carousels designed by Teresa Villegas or the stained glass that is above the main escalator well (look above the hanging airplane!) designed by Ken Toney in collaboration with the architects (see picture at right). But again, I am confident in the team that has been assembled in the preservation and protection of these works of art.

A great city doesn’t need great art, it requires great art. So, too, does an airport: A great airport requires great art. It’s great that Sky Harbor has some of the best airport art out there.

Election 2013 open thread

An open thread from Elections 2013 and Election Night in Phoenix 2013

The polls close at 7pm and the first results are due in an hour after that (8pm MST). Use this as an open thread for your thoughts, observations, predictions, and other commentary.

103592

Races I’m Watching…

  • Phoenix City Council District 4 and 8 — Johnson v Pastor (4) / Gallego v Stewart (8)
  • Various school district bond elections
  • Town of Buckeye – change to a City?

What are you watching?

Sky Harbor Terminal 2: Its demise is greatly exaggerated

Some thoughts on the future of Sky Harbor Airport’s Terminal 2 and why its demise might be greatly exaggerated

The year was 1962. A brand new building arrived at Phoenix’s fledgling Sky Harbor Airport: its second terminal building. The building was made for jets — the old Terminal 1 (opened 10 years previously but demolished in 1991) saw the golden age of propeller aviation. Toward its end, Terminal 1 was home to Southwest Airlines before they moved into the just recently opened Barry M. Goldwater Terminal 4 at the east end of the airport campus.

Fast forward just over half a century from Terminal 2’s opening in 1962 to 2013. The airport is now a regional hub for two major airlines – Southwest Airlines and U.S. Airways – and ha nonstop international service to cities in Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the United Kingdom. But Terminal 2, at 51 years old, still plays its part in Phoenix aviation.

Sky Harbor Terminal 2, ca. 1962 (photo credit: Chanen Construction)
Sky Harbor Terminal 2, ca. 1962 (photo credit: Chanen Construction)

Walking in to Terminal 2 is a different experience than its more modern — and more austere — counterparts. At the west end of the terminal headhouse building (now over the security checkpoints) is a mural by the late French-American artist Paul Coze. “The Phoenix” is one of Phoenix’s best midcentury murals and the phoenix bird is also replicated in his sculpture outside the Town and Country shopping center at 20th St and Camelback. In 2000, artwork from Terminal 3 was also placed in the Terminal 2 headhouse – a series of two paintings by the Western artist Billy Schenck and a 3D copper piece by Jose Bermudez.

When the Phoenix City Council signed off on new Sky Harbor Terminal 3 expansion project, it was mentioned that Terminal 2 would be closed. Many in the historic preservation community thought that by “closed,” the airport meant that it would be demolished. The Arizona Preservation Foundation wrote on its Facebook page that “[n]ot only will it close, it will be demolished.” A column in the East Valley (Phoenix) Tribune lamented that “The airport announced this past that it intends to spend millions of dollars to expand Terminal 3 to the east of Terminal 2, the latter destined to be torn down. It was only a matter of time.”

I’m here to say this: The demise of Terminal 2 is greatly exaggerated. While it will certainly close in the wake of Terminal 3’s westward expansion, the headhouse — the building with midcentury charm, the Paul Coze mural, and 51 years of history — will not be demolished. I have had conversations with high-ranking airport officials as well as those who work at Sky Harbor’s Airport Museum, the largest airport museum in the country and one of the largest in the world. Even if the building was slated for demolition, there is a great team (including myself) in place to protect, preserve, and conserve all of artwork that is in Terminal 2. The rumors on the street, while completely unofficial, are that the terminal headhouse will be converted into offices.

As we go forward, we need to get the facts straight and our stories correct. Nostalgia is an important part of place, placemaking, and propinquity: Terminal 2 is one of those wonderful structures in Phoenix’s history as well as in aviation history. But we need to be mindful that there are systems, teams, and people working on protecting the Paul Coze mural as well as the other portable art works in that building. Nobody wants to see those works damaged or destroyed.

Sky Harbor Terminal 3 - Stained GlassIt is necessary that we do not let our guard down. In addition to the artwork in Terminal 2, there are spectacular pieces of non-portable art in Terminal 3. I am thinking of the award-winning terrazzo floor by the baggage claim carousels designed by Teresa Villegas or the stained glass that is above the main escalator well (look above the hanging airplane!) designed by Ken Toney in collaboration with the architects (see picture at right). But again, I am confident in the team that has been assembled in the preservation and protection of these works of art.

A great city doesn’t need great art, it requires great art. So, too, does an airport: A great airport requires great art. It’s great that Sky Harbor has some of the best airport art out there.

An Appreciation of Sally Ride

The PBS NewsHour and Miles O’Brien offer an appreciation of the life of Sally K. Ride, the astronaut who passed away yesterday aged 61.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OBhta0mMts

“Sally Ride, I think, saw space as a means to an end. Her passion, her goal was to inspire young people to take on careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. When you’re 8 years old, you don’t want to be a waste management engineer. You want to be an astronaut, right? And she understood that intuitively, that to get kids in the tent, inspiring them with space was the way to go. And she committed her — her post-NASA career was all about that, consistently and relentlessly.” –Miles O’Brien

Why I’m opposed to a First Street dog park

…in which I express concerns and reservations about the latest iteration being thrown around of a downtown Phoenix 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.

DVC presents: State of Sustainability in Metro Phoenix

A panel of local experts and Andrew Ross, author of “Bird on Fire,” will discuss the current state of sustainability in Phoenix at a public forum on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.

PHOENIX, Arizona – A panel of local experts and Andrew Ross, author of “Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City,” will discuss the current state of sustainability in metropolitan Phoenix at a public forum on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.  The event, free to the public, will be held at the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center at 415 E. Grant Street. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., panel discussion 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., audience Q&A 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and reception with complimentary refreshments 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

RSVP on Facebook / Join DVC on Facebook

Panel moderator will be Charles Redman, Arizona State University (ASU) Virginia M. Ullmann professor of Natural History and the Environment and founding director of the ASU School of Sustainability. The current slate of panelists (with two to be added soon) includes:

  • Steve Betts, former president/CEO of SunCor Development and current Arizona District Council Chair of the Urban Land Institute;
  • Terry Goddard, former Phoenix mayor and former Arizona attorney general who now teaches a course at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus: “Phoenix and the Art of Public Decision Making;”
  • Taz Loomans, architect and writer/blogger on sustainability issues;
  • Eva Olivas, executive director, Phoenix Revitalization Corp
  • Andrew Ross, professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University.
  • Silvia Urrutia, director of Housing and Healthcare Finance, Raza Development Fund

According to Susan Copeland, steering committee chair of Downtown Voices Coalition, “Issues of sustainability are paramount to the future of Phoenix. Ross’ book is a great springboard from which to begin, or continue, discussion.”

The Downtown Voices Coalition is sponsoring the event with in-kind support from the Lexington Hotel in downtown Phoenix, Four Peaks Brewery of Tempe and the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center.

Bird on Fire” is available at Made Art Boutique, 922 North 5th Street in downtown Phoenix and at Changing Hands Bookstore at 6428 South McClintock Drive in Tempe. It is also available at Burton Barr, Cesar Chavez and Mesquite Branch libraries in Phoenix.

Downtown Voices Coalition is a coalition of stakeholder organizations that embrace growth in downtown Phoenix, but is mindful that healthy growth should be based upon existing downtown resources — the vibrancy of neighborhoods, the strength of the arts community, the uniqueness of historic properties, and the wonderful small businesses that dot downtown. For more information, visit downtownvoices.org.

# # #

Film screening to explore history, benefits of park development

A documentary on the urban park development movement titled “Olmsted and America’s Urban Parks” will be the subject of a free, public screening at Civic Space Park’s A.E. England Building, 424 N. Central Ave., on January 12, 2012 at 6:30 p.m.

A documentary on the urban park development movement titled “Olmsted and America’s Urban Parks” will be the subject of a free, public screening at Civic Space Park’s A.E. England Building, 424 N. Central Ave., on January 12, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 5:30. The documentary explores the park architecture of Frederick Law Olmsted and the evolution and history of urban park development in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries. The event will also feature the TED talk short video by artist Janet Echelman about her work, including Civic Space Park’s signature art piece, “Her Secret Is Patience.”

Viewers also will be able to meet one of the filmmakers of the Olmsted documentary, Rebecca Messner, and participate in a short presentation and discussion on local and national Red Field to Green Fields initiative to convert economically depressed “red” private property (residential, commercial and industrial) into public park property “green.”

The screening is a presentation of No Festival Required’s Building Community Cinema series with the support of the Speedwell Foundation, the City Parks Alliance, Arizona State University, Butler Housing Company, Phoenix Community Alliance, Phoenix Parks Foundation and the City of Phoenix.

Local experts and national author to discuss state of sustainability in metro Phoenix, Jan. 17

Downtown Voices Coalition hosts a sustainability forum featuring local experts and Andrew Ross, author of “Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City” on 17 January 2012

PHOENIX, Arizona – A panel of local experts and Andrew Ross, author of “Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City,” will discuss the current state of sustainability in metropolitan Phoenix at a public forum on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.  The event, free to the public, will be held at the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center at 415 E. Grant Street. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., panel discussion 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., audience Q&A 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and reception with complimentary refreshments 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Panel moderator will be Charles Redman, Arizona State University (ASU) Virginia M. Ullmann professor of Natural History and the Environment and founding director of the ASU School of Sustainability. The current slate of panelists (with two to be added soon) includes:

  • Maria Baier, state land commissioner, Arizona;
  • Steve Betts, former president/CEO of SunCor Development and current Arizona District Council Chair of the Urban Land Institute;
  • Terry Goddard, former Phoenix mayor and former Arizona attorney general who now teaches a course at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus: “Phoenix and the Art of Public Decision Making;”
  • Taz Loomans, architect and writer/blogger on sustainability issues;
  • Kris Mayes, former commissioner of the Arizona Corporation Commission and current director of the ASU Law and Sustainability Program and professor at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law;
  • Andrew Ross, professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University.
  • Silvia Urrutia, director of Housing and Healthcare Finance, Raza Development Fund

According to Susan Copeland, steering committee chair of Downtown Voices Coalition, “Issues of sustainability are paramount to the future of Phoenix. Ross’ book is a great springboard from which to begin, or continue, discussion.”

The Downtown Voices Coalition is sponsoring the event with in-kind support from the Lexington Hotel in downtown Phoenix, Four Peaks Brewery of Tempe and the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center.

Bird on Fire” is available at Made Art Boutique, 922 North 5th Street in downtown Phoenix and at Changing Hands Bookstore at 6428 South McClintock Drive in Tempe. It is also available at Burton Barr, Cesar Chavez and Mesquite Branch libraries in Phoenix.

Downtown Voices Coalition is a coalition of stakeholder organizations that embrace growth in downtown Phoenix, but is mindful that healthy growth should be based upon existing downtown resources — the vibrancy of neighborhoods, the strength of the arts community, the uniqueness of historic properties, and the wonderful small businesses that dot downtown. For more information, visit downtownvoices.org