Thanks to the efforts of Jill Johnson (Program Manager) and Doctor Diane Facinelli, students who participate in the course are steeped like tea bags in everything “downtown Phoenix” through a combination of tours and presentations by local historians, business people, city officials, arts community representatives, local community development wizards and urban sustainability advocates.
The goal is to break down any myths and misapprehensions young people who are new to downtown may have about their surroundings, and to give them access to the people on the ground who are transforming our urban core.
The course is divided into six areas, including Downtown Phoenix History; Entrepreneurship & Local Business; Governance, Politics and Activism; Places, Spaces and Adaptive Re-Use; Promoting Arts & Culture; and Sustainable and Vital Living.
Local experts in each area are brought in to meet with students and share their insights about how and why they do what they do and to show the impact they’re having. Students are not only encouraged to get involved, they are introduced to the very people and organizations that can get them started bringing their own passions and skills to bear on making the urban core vibrant.
“Incoming freshmen are sometimes disappointed to find themselves in downtown Phoenix versus the ASU campus in Tempe,” says Jill Johnson, the “connector” who makes the class viable and relevant. “We use ‘Community Encounters’ to dispel their fears, to show them what is happening right outside their student bubble, and to educate them about the wealth of opportunities they have available to them in downtown.”
The value of growing this connection between young ASU students and the downtown community is in reaching a potential new generation of residents who will want to live, work and play in downtown and create sustained vibrancy on our streets.
Jim McPherson, co-author with J. Seth Anderson and Suad Mahmuljin of Downtown Phoenix History, opens the course by sharing the historic context of the city’s evolution. “Students read our book before class,” said McPherson, “and then we take them on a combination bus and walking tour that enables them to see some of the areas featured in the book. We show them how historic places are contributing to the contemporary landscape of the city.”
“The purpose of the class is to provide students with variety of entry points for them to become active, engaged urban citizens,” said Johnson. “The students benefit from being exposed to the rich variety of experiences available to them in downtown, and the community benefits from the talent and energy the students can bring to making the best downtown possible. It’s as they say, a ‘win-win’ situation.”
Find out what this years’ students learned and how the class has impacted their perceptions of downtown at ENCOUNTER THIS! Community Encounters Showcase. At this free public event, groups of students who have worked together will show the community what they’ve learned and share how it has changed their perspective.
If You Go
When: Thursday, December 5, 7:00 pm
Where: A.E. England Building, Civic Space Park
Cost: FREE to public, but reservations are appreciated. Reserve your space now.
Contact: Jill.Johnson@asu.edu; 602-496-0557.
Every year a new crop of ASU students stream into downtown Phoenix and begin to “explore the core” as they navigate their way to class and their new home.
At DPJ, we encourage these urban adventures and are launching a fun social media hashtag campaign to encourage this discovery of the the people, places, and events that bring our urban core to life: #My1stTime.
Students, as you explore downtown, we want you to tweet us at @dtphxjournal, or post on Facebook or Instagram, a photo of yourself enjoying your very first time visiting downtown restaurants, parks, stores, art galleries, and events.
Be sure to include the hashtag #My1stTime. We’ll share our favorites.
What can fellow community members do? Help activate this campaign!
Those of us who have been here for a while can look for these hashtagged updates, welcome these new residents and encourage them to continue their urban adventures.
#My1stTime @dtphxjournal. It’s fun. It’s easy. And your mother will approve!
A bustling downtown filled with pedestrians is a classic image for any vibrant city. Increased pedestrian traffic from the rise of ASU downtown, the growth of First and Third Fridays, and the impact of light rail have all invigorated our downtown neighborhoods, however walking in Phoenix can still be daunting. And many of us would agree that the single most important element to making Phoenix a truly great place for pedestrians is shade.
Shade wasn’t always so scarce in the Valley. From the late 19th century into the early 20th people tried growing every kind of tree in Phoenix and many took hold, either as crops (citrus, nuts) or providing shade in yards, along canals and lining streets.
Shade was everywhere, according to Edward Lebow’s book, Following the Water. “There is shade and plenty of it,” observed a visitor in 1905. “The entire valley, from Mesa into Phoenix, is one solid mass of green, and every road is a perfect avenue…the entire distance from Mesa to Phoenix can be driven under an almost unbroken arch of shade.”
WOW. Can you imagine? Clearly times have changed.
Increasingly, everyone recognizes the importance of shade in helping to create a vibrant downtown. Over the last five years various groups, including city departments, community residents, and business owners have met to develop a cohesive vision for a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly and shaded “continuous oasis” for the downtown core.
In 2008, the Downtown Phoenix Urban Form Project created a policy document that evolved into Chapter 12 of the Zoning Ordinance and was adopted by the city council in 2010. Chapter 12 details shade standards for all new development over 5000 square feet in downtown.
David Urbinato, the Public Information Officer for the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department notes, “The code ordinance makes it easier for downtown developers to do the right thing.”
Simultaneously, a broader plan for the city as a whole was created in the form of the Tree and Shade Master Plan, also adopted in 2010, which envisions developing the urban shade canopy throughout the city to achieve an average 25% coverage in Phoenix by 2030 (we’re currently at 11-12%). “With the Tree and Shade Master Plan, the initial phase is focused on raising awareness and creating partnerships,” said Urbinato. o get to 25% canopy cover,” said Urbinato, “of lot of the shade development will have to happen on private property.”
What Does It All Mean for Downtown Denizens?
Each of us has a part to play in bringing the vision of a Continuous Oasis to life in downtown and there are a whole variety of ways that we can all participate.
Plant Trees in Your Yard.
If you own a home you can plant shade trees on the east, west and south sides of your home to help block the sun and you can apply to your local utility to get a tree for free. Both APS and SRP have free shade tree programs, along with tree care workshops to help you learn how to properly care for your trees. Learn more about how you can take advantage of these free programs to increase the shade in your own yard.
Become a Citizen Forester
The City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department maintains 220 parks and 718 linear miles of street landscape. There are thousands of trees that need to be both planted and maintained and the City needs our help.
Citizen Foresters serve the community by helping City staff properly plant and care for urban trees. They help lead tree plantings, teach volunteers how to plant and maintain trees, and spread the word about the value of the urban forest. You don’t need to be a tree expert; the city provides training sessions and volunteer opportunities for anyone interested in becoming a Citizen Forester. Check the Citizen Forester site to learn more.
Create a Community Garden in Your Neighborhood
While not strictly about trees, community gardens are another way to increase the green in downtown. The City provides a comprehensive policy guide for community groups who want to get started.
Join Your Local Neighborhood Association
Perhaps the most important thing you can do, is to work with fellow community members on ways to increase the shade canopy along your neighborhood streets and in your local parks.
Roosevelt Action Association (Historic Roosevelt Neighborhood)
As downtown development efforts go forward, planting trees and creating architectural shade elements will provide a key ingredient for creating and maintaining a vibrant, pedestrian heartbeat to downtown. We can all do our part. As our “continuous oasis” evolves, DPJ will keep a spotlight on downtown shade.
The disability education field continues to evolve as faculty and staff help students with disabilities. For ASU’s downtown Disability Resource Director Deborah Taska, helping these students is her passion.
Deborah Taska is celebrating her five-year tenure as director of ASU’s Disability Resource Center in downtown Phoenix. Taska organizes events and makes sure students get the right accommodations for their classes. Accommodations include extended time on tests and assigned note takers for classes, but Taska goes further. She focuses on the future state of students with disabilities.
“It’s my job to think outside the box,” Taska said. “Students become the strongest advocates with faculty, creating a great partnership.”
When the downtown campus opened in 2006, Taska became the director of their disability center. When the center opened, 99 students registered with accommodations. Today, 467 students are currently registered with the downtown campus’s center. As excited Taska is about the development, she’s even more pleased when these students can succeed without accommodations.
“There are a number of students that don’t always need accommodations,” Taska said. “They can select faculty and classes that can appeal to their style. It comes down to each semester.”
Taska’s journey did not begin with working in disability education. She graduated from Pennsylvania’s Shippensburg University with a degree in elementary education. But her path didn’t start off quite the way she hoped.
“My first assignment was a boarding school for students with parents serving in Vietnam, and that planted the seed for me,” Taska said. “I then took a job at a high school for students with learning disabilities, and I met creative, diverse, confident kids.”
That job inspired her to go back to college. Taska got her master’s degree in higher learning and specific learning disabilities from Southern Illinois University. Her degree brought her to ASU in 1985, where she was the Program Coordinator for the Tempe Campus.
She developed and provided programs to help faculty with students. Taska’s performance led her to taking charge at the downtown Phoenix campus in 2006.
Lance Harrop, the assistant director of the DRC, mostly works with students on a day-to-day basis, but he credits Taska for making his job easier. Their partnership makes the working environment better for both co-workers and students.
Taska greets her students with a warm smile and takes the time to get to know each registered student. She asks each one how they are doing personally and academically.
Taska wants more students to take charge, create events, and to join the fledgling Ability Counts Downtown group. Their established groups in the Tempe and West campuses promote disability awareness to their campuses and communities, and the downtown branch is trying accomplish the same goal. Their president, Elizabeth Vaughn, believes the DRC has done everything it can to help. But Vaughn, a junior studying social work, knows it isn’t easy.
“Ability Counts Downtown is going slowly, not much further than last year,” Vaughn said. “They want to get it further, but students don’t seem to want to do anything with it.”
Taska understands it’s difficult to form a group when students are focused on other interests, but she continues supporting the group as is grows.
“Deb is amazing not only personally, but she exemplifies what all collegiate staff should be,” Harrop said. “She makes it easier because she’s so good at what she does, ensuring students success, access and accommodations.”
Students registered with the downtown campus agree with Harrop. Vaughn believes Taska does a great job helping her at ASU.
“Awareness is a constant thing that needs to improve,” Vaughn said. “She does it well and helps me with networking in different disability areas.”
Taska created a strong partnership between students with disabilities and their professors. Under her guidance, downtown students with disabilities have the means to succeed. Thanks to her leadership, the DRC is showing no signs of slowing down.
Bike Chic is a new DPJ series by Fashion intern, Cortney Kaminski. Each week she will be scouting locals who not only ride their bikes but look dapper doing it.
Occupation: Student at W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University
His Neighborhood: Tempe
Where spotted: Central Avenue and Van Buren Street, Downtown
What do you enjoy about Downtown? It has a city feel without the feel of a rat race.
Where do you like to explore? I like to go to the Crescent Ballroom pretty often, and of course I go to class on the Downtown campus.
What is your biggest reason for riding your bike around rather than a car? Gas. Gas is way too expensive.
How do you balance looking nice with riding a bike? I don’t really force anything, I just kinda put things on and go.
What he’s wearing:
• Ezekiel shirt
• Levi jeans
• Keds shoes
• Ray-Ban sunglasses
His biking essential:
• Headphones and iPod
• 1985 Peugeot bicycle