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.
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HELP SHAPE A WALKABLE FUTURE FOR PHOENIX!
Reinvent PHX will host an interactive urban design gallery as part of the April 4th First Friday from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the south circular building of the Phoenix Financial Center 3443 N. Central (Central and Osborn).
The gallery will visualize how communities could develop along the city’s light rail system and will allow participants to share their own vision and suggest changes to the design concepts.
Mayor Stanton is scheduled to address the attendees and free food samples will be provided at the event.
Reinvent PHX is an initiative led by the City of Phoenix and a coalition of community partners with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to transform urban development along the light rail system to walkable, opportunity-rich communities.
Image 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.
“What we need next is focus and execution.”
We sat down for coffee recently with Ed Zito, President of Alliance Bank, a locally-owned, Arizona-based bank headquartered in CityScape. A long-time downtown advocate, Zito has been involved in many of the economic development changes over the last thirty years in Phoenix and is a member of the board of Downtown Phoenix, Inc.
He’s been in Phoenix since 1981, when he started his involvement in downtown through his position on the Corporate Contributions Committee of First Interstate Bank. “Sitting on that committee opened my eyes to the array of development challenges we had at the time, and the alignment we needed to meet those challenges,” said Zito.
“The alignment began when the business community took hold and took leadership on the importance of revitalizing downtown,” he continued. “But the business leadership couldn’t do it alone. They needed to align with the public sector, the philanthropic sector and the academic sector to create not just a vision, but a collaborative environment to take Phoenix to the next level, or two or three.”
“…the business leadership couldn’t do it alone. They needed to align with the public sector, the philanthropic sector and the academic sector to create not just a vision, but a collaborative environment to take Phoenix to the next level, or two or three.”
From Zito’s perspective, a specific development that has had tremendous impact on downtown was the coalescing around bioscience and life science that led to the creation of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (better known as TGen). Zito served on Governor Napolitano’s Committee for Innovation and Technology, which grew an ecosystem around TGen and the life and biosciences, and he sees this development as a key step in revitalizing downtown. Coincidentally, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce just selected TGen to receive a 2014 Economic Driver Impact Award.
He also points to the creation of the sports venues; the collaboration to overhaul the Phoenix Convention Center (“a beacon of the public and private sectors working together”); and CityScape (which represents “downtown coming into its own and flourishing”). These key developments build off the synergy of others. “The light rail, the growth of Local First, the impact of the arts community and thriving daily growth in downtown…it’s all part of the central nervous system.”
Alliance Bank was a key player in making CityScape a reality. “Alliance is only 11 years old,” said Zito, “but we made the $40 million loan for this entire block in the middle of the Great Recession. We closed that loan for RED Development on December 28, 2009…really the trough of the recession.”
For Zito, the key to long term vitality in downtown is the ongoing nurturing of the public/private partnerships that have brought us this far. Alliance is the largest, locally-owned bank in Arizona and he believes that “it’s in our DNA to be part and parcel of economic development. We understand that growing the pie is in everyone’s interest.”
He’s very proud of the fact that Alliance Bank is locally owned. “We believe in putting our money where our mouth is,” added Zito. “It resonates from our CEO, Robert Sarver, all the way down. We have an ‘investing forward’ mentality in our organization that is very powerful. One of the things we’re focused on is passing on that DNA deeper into the organization and the next generation of leaders.”
“We have a great mix of talent on the (DPI) board. What we need next is focus and execution.”
When asked what he believes are the most significant lessons we’ve learned in downtown over the last 20 years, he said, “Lesson one is think big, leadership counts, and the alignment that comes from that can be really powerful.”
The last twenty years or so have seen tremendous progress in the development of this alignment among all of the key stakeholders, but, for Zito the biggest challenge ahead is capital needs. “We continue to be blessed with great leadership in all of the sectors (public, private, philanthropic, academic). It’s very encouraging, because these are the four pillars that support continued growth and development, but it is critical that we meet the capital requirements to do the next generation of bold and audacious things.”
Zito sees the creation of Downtown Phoenix, Inc. as inspirational. “DPI gives us the ability to really take it to the next level. We have a great mix of talent on the board. What we need next is focus and execution. We need to agree on our needs in downtown. For example, if we agree that it’s more residential development, then let’s focus on that and execute it really, really well. Make the process diverse, accessible, inclusive and user-friendly. If we do it well, the leverage you get out of it is phenomenal.”
“We’ve spent too long as a real estate-centric economic story, and now we’re much more multi-faceted and diverse.”
What Zito brings to the DPI board is history and perspective, business acumen, and financial reality. “I’m a collaborator,” he said. “I can convene, but I’d rather coalesce with other leadership. The vision, time and talent of other board members, such as Mike Ebert and Don Brandt is unquestioned, but you mix that with a Kimber Lanning of Local First, add in the arts community, and the public sector piece with the Mayor and Ed Zuercher, the City Manager, and it becomes electric.”
Zito sees DPI as the next phase of the alignment and collaboration that downtown needs. “From the get go,” he says, “DPI has made a clear statement of inclusion and has been very effective at getting everyone to the table to take the city to the next level. There’s a stronger pulse and heart beat. We’ve spent too long as a real estate-centric economic story, and now we’re much more multi-faceted and diverse.”
In his free time, Zito enjoys visiting the Phoenix Art Museum and he follows a particular sports team (hint, hint…the Suns). He feels that there is a certain energy and spirit of hope that is created with the public when their sports teams are doing well. As he puts it, “a lot of hope and inspiration is part of what creates a successful urban environment. Our best days lie ahead.”
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
Tequila Education Night, One Shot at a Time, at Taco Guild
The evening includes a four-course meal and guest speaker Diana Jimenez of Cabrito Tequila
Taco Guild, a tequila and tacos gastropub located on the corner of 7th Street and Osborn in Phoenix, will hold its first Tequila Education Night on Tuesday, March 11 at 6:30 pm. The informational event will feature guest speaker Diana Jimenez, Brand Ambassador for Cabrito Tequila, which is the best selling tequila in Mexico, as well as Taco Guild’s house tequila.
Piggy-backing off of last month’s successful Mexican Moonshine tequila tasting where Roger Clyne recounted numerous stories, the Cabrito tasting is an evening to broaden the palate with the agave drink. Combined with a world-class brush up on the complexities and pairings of tequila, the innovative restaurant will feature a four-course meal paired with appropriate tequilas to enhance each flavor. The courses are as follows:
- Greeting cocktail – 1893 frozen margarita (Tequila Cabrito Reposado)
- Course – chef inspired ceviche of the day – Tequila Cabrito Blanco
- Course – grilled romaine salad – Tequila Cabrito Reposado
- Course – selection of three tacos – cocktail featuring anjeo tequila
- Course – dessert – paired with appropriate tequila
Tickets for the event are $35 per person and are available at the restaurant. For questions, please contact Taco Guild at 602.264.4143 or stop by at 546 E. Osborn Road, Phoenix, Ariz. 85012.
Image courtesy of the Taco Guild
Don’t miss the once-a-year opportunity to peer into the studios of working artists and wander through galleries during Artlink’s Art Detour 26 this weekend. Along with the top art venues of downtown Phoenix and countless pop-up exhibits, dozens of painters, sculptors, photographers, glassblowers, and other creative minds open the doors of their private space to curious visitors.
With the event map in hand, art lovers can explore more than 100 stops on a two-day self-guided tour, many within convenient walking distance of the free Art Detour shuttle route. Docents ride along on two London-style double-decker buses circulating continuously at 20-minute intervals between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, while four information hubs at Phoenix Art Museum, Oasis on Grand, CityScape, and the Arizona Center provide volunteers ready to answer questions.
The adventure begins this evening with a greater-than-usual array of First Friday opportunities, including an open rehearsal by the Phoenix Chorale at Trinity Cathedral. While you’re there, check out Olney Gallery’s Color Color Color! exhibition, featuring work by Kaori Takamura, Sarah Kriehn, and Christopher Jagmin.
Elsewhere, the weekend is filled with live music — along with a multitude of casual performances like Bones of Folk’s Danyul Kostin at Oasis on Grand and the Moonlight Howlers at The Lost Leaf, tonight’s ambitious Viva Phx festival brings 70 groups — including Sir Mix-A-Lot, The Neighbourhood, Black Carl, Tobie Milford, and Pinback — to 14 venues ranging from Crescent Ballroom to the Hotel San Carlos to the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center. The next day, Phoenix Blues Society’s Blues Blast ’14 fills Saturday with tunes from Hans Olson, Leon J’s JukeJoint, the Mike Eldred Trio, and other Rhythm Room stars at Margaret T. Hance Park — show an Art Detour map for a ticket discount.
Once your ears are satiated, fill your eyes with images from Artlink board member Hugo Medina, curator of the Phoenix Phabulous History Mural showing at Walter Studios. “I think it’s important that artists keep creating, pulling forward, which I try to do with my own work as well,” he says. “Phoenix is a phenomenal destination…. We’ve just got to start getting the collectors to start coming out, and that’s the challenge.”
For the month of March, R. Pela Contemporary Art will display Banned at the Herberger, including part of a controversial canceled show originally scheduled last fall at the Herberger Theater Center Art Gallery. The exhibit includes work by Mike Ford, Ronnie Ray Mendez, and Lisa Albinger. “Mike Ford’s photographs, about his relationship with his mother who has Alzheimer’s disease, have such depth,” says curator Robrt Pela. “There’s sadness, and camp, and real emotion. I had to share them.”
He continues, “I think that the art that I’m showing…I want there to be craftsmanship and beauty, but there has to be another element too…some commentary, some politics, some pain. It can’t just be something that’s lovely to look at because that isn’t quite enough.”
Other popular, highly-regarded mainstays anchoring First Friday and Art Detour include Practical Art and monOrchid. Great Arizona Puppet Theater offers edgy, quirky, adults-only Puppet Slams both Friday and Saturday nights.
All weekend, kids can find plenty of fun with finger-paint murals, demonstrations, workshops, and other family-friendly activities at Kids’ Detour, various galleries and studios, and the Blues Blast. Retailers and restaurateurs also add to the experience with extended weekend hours and specials.
If you go:
- Artlink First Friday on March 7
- Viva Phx music festival on March 7
- Phoenix Blues Society’s Blues Blast ’14 on March 8
- Artlink’s Art Detour 26 on March 8-9