Arts & Culture
Here at DPJ, we’re all about sharing what we love. Beyond the stories that make us love downtown, we often come across things that catch our eye, tingle our senses or have us dancing in delight. “We Like…” turns a brief spotlight on the little treasures that make our day, with helpful links so you can share in the fun.
I love stumbling on secret delights in cities – the odd alleyway, a hidden bench behind a bushy shrub, or a work of art where you least suspect it. My early years in Phoenix were marked by dismay that I couldn’t get out and wander about as a pedestrian. I got a dog and walked my residential neighborhood, but I specifically craved city streets and their eccentricities.
There was, however, one thing about Phoenix that gave me hope for the great city it would become – its world class public art. Even 21 years ago when I first arrived, Phoenix was way ahead of the game in making art an integral part of its bones, especially given the irony that, at that time, the city was exploding with gruesome suburban sprawl.
But the public art was a revelation and, over the years, innovative public art throughout Phoenix has continued to shape the way our beautiful city feels. One of my favorite tucked-away examples in the heart of downtown is The Hohokam Camshaft Gates.
This wonderful, but easy-to-miss piece is a perfect combination of art and infrastructure. In 1994, Phoenix artists Bob Adams and Michael Maglich were commissioned to collaborate on the design and fabrication of gates for the loading area of the Phoenix Convention Center. They hit the nail on the head with a concept and execution that always makes me smile.
The spindles for the gates represent diesel truck camshafts, a nice nod to the importance of the trucking industry in the operation of the Convention Center. The masks that top the gates pay homage to the Hohokam people, the first Phoenix urban dwellers. The masks were sculpted by C. Matt Thomas and are enlarged reproductions from prehistoric Hohokam figurines. Kudos to everyone on this project!
The end result is a functional, but beautiful gate on the backside of the convention center, where visitors aren’t as likely to be wandering. It comes as a happy surprise for those who do stumble upon it. And when you stop and take it in, it tells an authentic story about this particular spot and the role it plays in our city. I love it because it isn’t grand, but it is integral. Stroll by and check it out. (A side note: when the Convention Center was renovated and expanded in the mid-2000s, half of the gate was moved to the Shemer Center.)
If You Go
What: The Hohokam Camshaft Gates
Where: Loading Dock Area – backside (east) of Phoenix Convention Center, on 5th Street between Jefferson and Washington Streets
Artists: Bob Adams, Michael Maglich
Want to share your love? Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what YOU like.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
DOWNTOWN PHOENIX INC SEEKS LOCAL ARTIST TO DESIGN DOWNTOWN DIRECTORY COVER
Artists are asked to submit a proposal for the brochure-sized cover capturing the spirit of Downtown Phoenix’s diversity and vibrancy while paying tribute to the urban landscape. The deadline for submissions is April 30.
The call continues the recent trend of artist-designed covers for Downtown publications, including artists Christina Mesiti on the 2012-2013 Downtown Dining Guide, Meghan Mitchell on the 2012 Annual Report, Jesa Townsend on the 2013-2014 Dining Guide, Jon Arvizu on the 2014 January-June Downtown Business Directory and Barry Goldstein on the 2013 Annual Report.
The Directory will be distributed to businesses, restaurants and major event locations inside and outside of Downtown and through the Downtown Ambassador team.
For more information on how to submit, please visit http://www.downtownphoenix.com/blog/2014/04/design-our-directory-and-dining-guide-cover/
Image courtesy of Downtown Phoenix, Inc., featuring cover art by Jon Arvizu.
Central Park. Hyde Park. Griffith Park. Millennium Park. All famous spots that have become integral to the cities they exist within. So what’s the defining park of Phoenix?
If you’re still searching for an answer, you’re not alone. But thanks to the efforts of what started as a small group of downtown citizens and has bloomed into the Hance Park Conservancy, the answer to that question may very soon be Margaret T. Hance Park.
The City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, in collaboration with the Hance Park Conservancy, put out a call to professional design teams to submit their best ideas for a completely remodeled downtown park.
On Thursday, March 27, the master plans were revealed to an excited crowd at the park, just south of Burton Barr Central Library. Playing on a city that is large, sprawling, and interspersed into the natural geography, the proposed master plan for Hance Park will answer the vastness of Phoenix with its own buttes, ridges, and sprawling valleys.
Not to mention a beer garden, dog park, zip line, dedicated performance pavilion, a skate park, and a built-in irrigation system to support vegetation, among other new amenities. The proposed plan should reach completion in 10 years, at a budget of $118 million.
The selected team is comprised of locals and outsiders, with Lead Designer and Master Planner Jerry Van Eyck from !Melk, Prime Consultant Phil Weddle of Weddle Gilmore, and Landscape Architect Kris Floor of Floor Associates.
In order to keep the excitement and momentum set forth by the unveiling of the park’s plans, Weddle stressed the need to focus on the first set of changes coming to the space.
“We really need to focus on that catalytic first phase,” he said. “We believe that the most significant thing we can do is focus the early money on creating a signature gateway into the park at Central Avenue. That’s creating a vibrant urban plaza and the cloud that becomes the signature marker for this park.”
The cloud referred to is a collection of structures to be installed over Central Avenue marking the entrance to the park, and most resemble a small fleet of miniature alien space crafts, slowly descending upon the city.
Somewhat surprisingly, that $118 million price tag is reasonable when compared with parks of similar prominence throughout the United States. The cost breaks down to $3.7 million per acre, comparable to the Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York, which came in at $3.2 million per acre. Even Phoenix’s Civic Space Park, although smaller, came in slightly higher at $5.2 million per acre.
As Weddle described, the master plan is a long-term vision that will be funded through mixed initiatives.
“We are proposing to fund it through a public-private partnership. It’s really the model that shows the community is invested in the park as much as the public entity is. It’s a smart investment; it creates economic benefits for our community.”
Kimber Lanning, founder and executive director of Local First Arizona, reminded attendees of the unveiling event that the price tag is not as intimidating as it seems.
“We have invested between $4 and $5 billion dollars in this downtown, and we need to have this park finished,” she said.
“You know, Chicago didn’t just wake up one day as a great city; it was built by the people just like you who lived in Chicago. I’m not saying this is going to be easy. There’s going to be people who tell us we can’t afford this. I argue we can’t afford not to do this.”
According to Weddle, the next areas of focus will be working with the city and Hance Park Conservancy to expand programming within the park as it is today, because, as he says, “I think it’s really important to try and build the vibrancy as quickly as possible and not necessarily wait for construction.”
Building the vibrancy would include both larger events, such as concerts and festivals, and smaller, day to day activities, such as yoga in the park.
The team is also working to map out funding strategies going forward, as there is no dedicated funding for construction at the moment, according to Weddle.
“For the public funding to be allocated it’s going to need to continue to be a priority for the community, and continue to be a priority for the city council leadership,” he said, adding that the team also has plans to begin exploration for a private capital campaign to match the public funds.
In addition to the first phase renovations to the plaza and clouds over Central Ave, the team is planning on making improvements to the performance pavilion a top priority, as it allows for new programming and partnerships with art and cultural organizations downtown.
Rendering images from the Hance Park Master Plan Report, courtesy of City of Phoenix.
As an independent chronicler of all things downtown, DPJ takes a comprehensive approach to covering the urban living movement in Phoenix and, with this Conversation series, spotlighting the people who make it move.
“The important lesson is that we have to hold our principles dear.”
Tim Eigo is a longtime community advocate who moved to Phoenix and settled in the F.Q. Story neighborhood 17 years ago. Both of his daughters, ages 12 and 17, attend Arizona School for the Arts and over the years he has been deeply engaged at a community level in helping to create a stronger, more livable city. He currently serves as Chair of the Downtown Voices Coalition (DVC) and as a board member of Downtown Phoenix Inc. (DPI).
DVC grew out of a day-long facilitated discussion about the future of downtown that took place in May 2004 with a wide variety of stakeholders at the Icehouse. For ten years they have continued to meet and promote a vision of a downtown that embraces the arts, affordable housing, historic preservation and locally owned businesses. He refers to himself and his community advocate colleagues as “neighbors,” which characterizes his deep commitment to the DVC vision.
When asked to name the key changes have invigorated downtown, Eigo points directly to leadership, but he remains a little wary about whether we’ve actually made enough progress. “The thing that invigorates cities are leaders who get it, who understand what a city is, what urban dynamism is, and who are willing to work to make it happen,” he said. “And I don’t want to say that we’ve got it yet. I’m still not sure we’ve got it.”
“The thing that invigorates cities are leaders who get it, who understand what a city is, what urban dynamism is, and who are willing to work to make it happen.”
Yet, he admits there has been progress. “On my best days, when I see spaces and minds that get it, it makes a difference. When I am having a bad Phoenix day and I walk into the Burton Barr Library, or stand under Her Secret is Patience (the public art sculpture in Downtown Civic Space Park) I think that every now and then we do get it.”
What are the important lessons that have been learned over the years? “The important lesson is that we have to hold our principles dear,” he said. He points out that the impact of the recession has been fortunate, in a way, because it caused business and government leaders to be a lot more aligned with DVC values. “It’s easy to believe in small grain, local development and not just major projects when no developers have any money,” he says.
As the recession eases and developers have more money, however, he’s cautious about what will come. “I’m watching to see how much that commitment sticks. So far, I am not so confident,” he said. He pointed to the recent city-backed proposal to build the Pin at Heritage Square as an example of why he’s a bit skeptical of the progress in downtown. “It boggles the mind that the hardest question put to the group that brought it (the Pin) forward to the City Council was ‘can you have it built by the Super Bowl?’ As a neighbor, that’s an eye opener, that our elected leaders are at this low level of engagement on important items.”
On the other hand, he’s quick to recognize that another lesson we’ve learned is that engagement actually works. When citizens are engaged, good things can happen. As an example, he mentioned the development of light rail, which he and many others were involved in planning. “Light rail has transformed the valley.”
What are the most important steps we can take to continue developing a vibrant downtown from Eigo’s perspective? “For me, as a neighbor,” he said, “it comes down to transparency. Don’t lie to people. If there are opportunities to make positive change in the city, don’t tell us it’s a blank slate and all ideas are okay if they’re not. We’ve all participated in public charrettes that went on for six months and it turned out there was a plan in someone’s desk all along that they were going to adopt. We need to stop that sort of thing.”
The other step we need to take is bigger than just Phoenix, in Eigo’s view. “Nationwide there’s kind of a war on cities, on downtowns. Even in our own city council, we have a lot of suburban council people who don’t get downtown and don’t feel that they have to get it. They don’t even recognize downtown as an economic engine, which it is. And it’s not just Phoenix. This is happening across the country,” he continued. “And neighbors and urbanists need to band together and keep touting downtown.”
“I don’t think Arizona will be a significant stakeholder in any kind of national conversation if we don’t tout Phoenix and advance Phoenix. It is an enormous economic powerhouse.”
Why is a vibrant downtown so important? Two reasons, according to him. “I don’t think Arizona will be a significant stakeholder in any kind of national conversation if we don’t tout Phoenix and advance Phoenix. It is an enormous economic powerhouse.” The second reason a vibrant downtown is important is, as he puts it, “generational.” Looking to his own family, Eigo mentions that neither one of his daughters wants to stay in Phoenix after they are grown up. “They may change their mind,” he notes, “but when I try to marshal arguments for staying, I sometimes have a hard time. If we really want people to remain and contribute and not have a brain drain…we have to have reasons for them to stay.”
What challenges does Eigo see on the horizon? “The economy is getting better and we’re going to have to look inside to see that we have urbanist principles that we trust and are going to live by, from city hall right through community groups,” he said. “And we need to have a commitment to our historic structures.”
Eigo is excited to be a part of Downtown Phoenix, Inc. “DPI is a cool ‘laboratory of democracy’ kind of experiment. Getting these usually separate people (powerful corporate leaders and community-based leaders) in a room together….over time we begin to realize that we do overlap in some places. We discover that we have similar ideas about what makes a great city.” He knows that it doesn’t mean they will always agree on the strategy to achieve a great city, but recognizing the overlap is “very cool.” Still, Eigo appears to be cautiously optimistic.
“The potential (of DPI) is huge,” said Eigo. “If we could have similar principles that we share…to speak with a single voice about what makes a livable, sustainable city, that would be great.” Speaking of his own role on the board, he said, “I think what I, or any community member brings is honesty. They (corporate members) live in a complex world and they represent huge organizations – I don’t. We need to provide an honest wake up call: what flies, what doesn’t fly; what’s transparent and what’s opaque; what is truly sustainable and what is big box. If we’re not willing to look at things like CityScape and learn from them, then what’s the point? There’s plenty of cheerleading in this city already, that’s not our role.”
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
The Space_Between Vacant Lot Activation
This temporary vacant lot activation project, part of Phoenix Urban Design Week, will bring a new community space to Downtown in the shape of a backyard patio where residents, visitors, downtown employees and students can play, relax and commune. Join us and offer your suggestions for the space – a team of designers will be on hand to translate your vision and input from adjacent stakeholders into a site plan that the Downtown Phoenix Partnership will then implement.
Thank you to Valley Youth Theater for hosting us in their venue, can’t wait to have some of that creative energy to spill out into a great plan for the site! Feel free to invite anyone who may be interested in this project, more details and RSVP on Facebook.
Photo by Sean Deckert, courtesy of Downtown Phoenix Partnership.