Doctrina Urbi Serviat?

…in which we read into a building plaque at ASU Downtown more than we probably should.

One of the things that I do is take pictures of building plaques. They’re the little things that are inside city/state/federal buildings that gives a snapshot of the relevant legislative bodies and executive officers at the time of the building’s construction.

Much has been made about the recent decision by the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus to close off the buildings to the public. There’s a lot of confusion over ASU’s justification to do that considering that the buildings aren’t ASU buildings but are, in fact, City of Phoenix buildings. It will be interesting to see how that conversation plays out and I am very curious what ASU has to say about this.

But back to building plaques: One of the more subtle ironies in this whole discussion is this plaque that’s inside the Cronkite School building. It has the usual cast of characters on it: the Mayor, the City Council, other city leaders, and the requisite names from the Arizona Department of Education and the Arizona Board of Regents. There are, however, two other inscriptions that accentuate the irony just that much more:

“Dedicated to the people of the City of Phoenix whose vision, trust and commitment made this campus possible.”

and

DOCTRINA URBI SERVIAT
Let Knowledge Serve the City

I couldn’t help but notice this as we all considered the repercussions and impact of a newly closed campus at ASU Downtown.

Thoughts on #PHXUDW day 3

…in which the Grady Gammage Jr/Andrew Ross debate for Phoenix Urban Design Week is reviewed.

Great conversation tonight at day 3 of Phoenix Urban Design Week.

I, and many, expected the conversation between Andrew Ross and Grady Gammage Jr. to be more spirited than it was but was pleased with the content of the conversation. I appreciate that Andrew Ross has really tackled the social justice/social equity piece and made that as much of an issue of sustainability than just “going green” — something with which I agree wholeheartedly. It was interesting how most of the evening was spent talking about water, with nary a mention of transportation and air quality.

Surprisingly, the best line of the night came from Grady Gammage Jr., who said, “You can’t have a city if you have a parking spot for everything.” I absolutely agree. Parking lots are the enemy of density.

Back at it at 8am tomorrow morning at PURL!

Enough about dog parks!

…in which I ask: Can we stop arguing over a downtown Phoenix dog park and move on to other issues?

A map of the temporary site of the downtown Phoenix dog park.Earlier today, the Hance Park Steering Committee held its final meeting. The Hance Park Steering Committee finished putting together its document of principles that will (hopefully!) head out as an RFQ process as the first step to make Hance Park a cultural and recreational gem for Phoenicians and for the world. As someone said, “Hance Park is our Central Park. Let’s not mess this up!”

At the previous Hance Park Steering Committee meeting, the Steering Committee recommended placement of a temporary dog park at the northwest island of Hance Park, located across from Kenilworth School, between 3rd and 5th Avenues and Culver Street. This was the decision that has had support from community members, institutional processes, and the right decision makers.

Enter today. A new fight was waged against democratic processes. A neighbor adjacent to the proposed Hance Park dog park site gave a three-minute speech about why a dog park should not go at this temporary site. A lot of people asked him this question: Why weren’t your issues brought to the table when the Ad Hoc Dog Park Committee was going through its recommendation process? Of course, the gentleman had no answer. His flyers (which were printed on gloss paper with somewhat professional graphic design) linked to an online petition which, at the moment of this writing, has only two signatures.

I’m not a fan of dog parks but I am supportive of the process that has been taken here by the Hance Park Steering Committee. I am also supportive of the Hance Park Steering Committee’s desire to launch an RFQ process as a means to develop Hance Park’s new Master Plan. But as for dog parks: this location is sensible and temporary. It is a sensible site because it executes the democratic processes and recommendations of the Ad Hoc Dog Park Committee and is cognizant of community input. It is a temporary site because the formal design team will work with the neighbors and site a dog park at the location that works the best. If it’s the same site, nobody knows.

So, I have a question to my fellow downtown Phoenicians: Can we put this saga to rest? There are so many larger pressing issues that face downtown Phoenix that we should work together to find solutions.

Dog parks are for the dogs. Let’s work on human-scaled issues together. That’s my approach: who is with me?

Serpentine, Shel, serpentine!

…in which I draw a parallel between central Phoenix’s new audible crosswalk signals and a classic scene from a 1979 movie.

Every time I’m at one of the crosswalks in central Phoenix, the sound that the crosswalk signals make (either a machine gun or a jackhammer, hopefully the latter!) reminds me of this scene from the 1979 movie The In-Laws (guidance: language):

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2_w-QCWpS0

Serpentine, Shel, serpentine!

Monday opinions on dog parks

…in which I opine on a downtown Phoenix dog park and express dismay over the tenor of the dialogue.

A map of the temporary site of the downtown Phoenix dog park.I’m finished opining on the downtown Phoenix dog park.

Everyone has a right to their own opinion. I enjoy hearing the different thoughts that come out in the dialogue and I’m amazed by the diversity of ideas produced. But I have become distraught at the tenor of the conversation. It appears like there are groups of people who are so entrenched in their viewpoints that they fail to consider other opinions.

I’m not saying that one side is right and the other is wrong. I am saying that it is only fair to have a reasoned and rational discussion among all sides about the dog park issue. Personally, I believe that there are more important things to downtown Phoenix’s renaissance than siting a dog park. We need to consider our downtown’s macro issues, being mindful that these are the things that make a downtown truly great: arts and culture, affordable housing, community building, good design, sustainable transportation, social equity, historic preservation, a diverse economy, strong neighborhoods, vibrant public spaces, and solid planning.

While I’m sure that organizations with which I’m affiliated (like Downtown Voices Coalition, the Hance Park Conservancy, and others) will weigh in on this issue, it is my hope that the debate is civil.

I, personally, am finished weighing in on the dog park. My priorities are based on that list above.

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

 

Park(ing) Day 2011 [edited, more photos!]

Today was just a great day to be alive and in downtown Phoenix. The weather was finally beautiful after an endless summer in the desert! Also, pictures and videos from Park(ing) Day in downtown Phoenix.

[Author’s edit: Check the bottom of this post for a link to my photos.]

Today was just a great day to be alive and in downtown Phoenix. The weather was finally beautiful after an endless summer in the desert!

And this morning was also Park(ing) Day 2011, an annual event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. It forces us to consider public policy and what type of parking is more appropriate in an urban environment: car parking or people parking?

This year, my friend Donna Reiner and I set up and played some piano duets, ranging from absolute beginner to Clementi, Mozart, Diabelli, and Fauré. Even at sight-reading, I thought we were pretty good.

Anyway, some pictures and videos (with more being uploaded throughout the day…check back tonight for more):

Park(ing) Day Phoenix, morning photos

Park(ing) Day Phoenix, morning photos

Park(ing) Day Phoenix, morning photos

Edit, 9:45pm: All of my photos from the day are on my Park(ing) Day 2011 set on Flickr.