Vacant lots fill 43% of the land in Phoenix. We’ve all seen them scattered up and down throughout downtown and we know the impact they can have.
On one such neglected site, however, an organic transformation has been slowly evolving over the last two years. PHX Renews, a program of Keep Phoenix Beautiful, has brought community members, nonprofits, and corporate partners together to transform a fallow 15-acre site on the northeast corner of E. Indian School Rd. and Central Ave. into a garden bursting with plant life. Once the site of the old Phoenix Indian School, the lot lies adjacent to, though not part of, Steele Indian School Park.
The mission of the PHX Renews program is to “find temporary uses for these lots that will beautify the city, while promoting sustainability and a sense of community.” With this simple mission, Tom Waldeck, the executive director of Keep Phoenix Beautiful and his staff, volunteers and supporters have created a beautifully diverse example of how to bring abundant, temporary life to these neglected spaces. The 15-acre lot is on lease from Baron Colliers Companies, with the agreement that anything and everything built on the site is temporary. When the time comes for it to be developed, everything can be moved. As Waldeck says, “When we do leave it will be like we were never here.”
The program was launched with two seed grants, including $100,000 from Wells Fargo, and $40,000 from the Steele Foundation. Currently the lot boasts a small farm run by the International Rescue Committee; 140 community garden plots; a temporary net neutral sustainable high tech house built in partnership with ASU; gardening demonstration areas run by various nonprofits; and a temporary dog park from PetSmart. The fence surrounding the site is adorned with temporary mural panels painted by local artists and community members. The temporary sustainable house has become the onsite office for Phoenix Renews and ASU will continue to use it for research connected to the onsite technology that was used in its construction. Hayden Flour Mill is using the site to grow a couple of acres of heat resistant white Sonoran wheat, which they supply to Chris Bianco. APS is working to create temporary black water solutions for the site, and various other groups present events and programs onsite.
The project continues to evolve. Most of the 15-acres is being utilized at this point and plans are in the works for various events, including an Earth Day Festival next April. There will be ongoing presentations, demonstrations and workshops to help people experience sustainable desert gardening, water conservation, composting, and other aspects of sustainable living. “Everything we do has to have an educational component,” said Waldeck. “We bring kids in for recycling, composting, etc.” Last March they hosted Bill and Chelsea Clinton for the Clinton Foundation’s 9th Annual Day of Action.
The program has been such a success that Keep Phoenix Beautiful has brought on a full-time project manager. Katie Poirer is a recent graduate of the sustainability program at ASU who got involved with PHX Renews originally as a volunteer. She works directly with community gardeners, helping with any problems and small maintenance issues, as well as working directly with organizations who are looking for ways to get involved.
The next time you’re in the area, stop in and walk around. You’re sure to see someone working on their garden plot, tilling a field, or leading a demonstration of some kind. Contact Katie and set a time to tour through the house. And keep in mind as you wander through the site that the whole miraculous blooming patch, up to and including the house, is temporary, and portable. When the time comes for construction on this lot, the whole shebang can be moved to thrive and bloom in another vacant corner of the city.
If you go:
What: PHX Renews, a temporarily activated, 15-acre sustainability experience
Where: Northeast corner of E. Indian School Rd. and Central Ave. (No public parking on site. Park in the Steele Indian School Park lot and walk out and around to the entrance on Central, or take light rail to the Indian School and Central Station and cross to the entrance on Central.)
When: Open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. For more information or to set up a time to see the house, call 602-262-4820, or visit PHX Renews.
Admission: There is no cost to visit the site.
David Krietor has served as CEO of the newly-formed Downtown Phoenix, Inc. (“DPI”) since April 8, 2013. In that time, he has begun work with community stakeholders to develop the downtown we want. “Your Downtown” shares his thoughts and DPI’s progress with the downtown community and beyond. Read the other chats here.
Admit it. You sometimes spell Phoenix wrong. Pheonix. Phoneix. Even the City of Phoenix does too. But it’s going to be pretty hard – and heavy – to make edits on several misspelled cast iron manhole covers spotted by eagle-eyed downtowners. From here on out, as you read this update on downtown Phoenix goings-on, be assured that spell-check is on.
While there continues to be concern about the regional and state economy, downtown projects continue to move forward. Here’s the latest news on several notable downtown and midtown projects in the works: Central Station (Central & Van Buren), Lennar Multifamily Communities (Central & McDowell), and several Phoenix Convention Center-managed spaces, including the former Matador restaurant (1st St. & Adams).
A noted local attorney has contributed $10 million to help build Arizona State University’s new Arizona Center for Law and Society, including the future home of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, in downtown Phoenix. The contribution from Leo and Annette Beus is the largest single donation ever to the law school.
Last spring, Professor Lauren Allsopp and 16 graduate students from ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning set out to create a reactivation plan for downtown’s historic, yet endangered, Warehouse District. The students’ work is summarized here.
Grand Canyon University is housing nearly 200 upperclass students at Roosevelt Point Apartments (3rd St. & Roosevelt) due to a shortage of onsite housing at the university’s 35th Ave. & Camelback campus. Last year, Roosevelt Point housed some GCU students, but on a much smaller scale.
On September 27 (before the rains came), a group of young downtown advocates organized and staged “Better Block PHX” on the block between Pierce and Garfield to demonstrate how existing “dead zones” (e.g., empty lots, vacant storefronts, asphalt parking lots) can be transformed into lively streetscapes, marketplaces, and community hubs.
On September 18, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration changed the west outbound flight path for planes departing from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The change directs planes to turn at a lower altitude between early afternoon and 2 a.m. over Lower Grand Avenue, rather than a more westerly and higher turn. The public in general and residents of the affected residential neighborhoods specifically were not made aware of the change, resulting in more than 240 noise questions or complaints in two weeks. In comparison, airport officials received 221 such complaints in all of 2013. The FAA and city officials will hold a community meeting on October 16 to discuss the noise complaints and rationale for the change.
City and economic development leaders are touting Phoenix to host one of three NCAA Basketball Final Fours in 2017, 2019, or 2020. Downtown Phoenix is key to the Final Four bid package because of the number of hotel rooms and the Phoenix Convention Center, which would be the site of the National Association of Basketball Coaches convention and the “Bracket Town” fanfest event. This is another great example of the working partnership that has emerged between the Phoenix CVB, Phoenix Convention Center and DPI.
My colleague Dan Klocke with the Downtown Phoenix Community Development Corp. noted in a Downtown Devil article that this summer’s retail outlook in downtown was on par with, if not better than, previous years. “We’ve seen a few more restaurants open up and a couple more coming, and we see hotel occupancy levels climbing in the first six months of the year compared to last year, so that’s good.”
Some of the businesses that recently announced their intent to open downtown include GrabbaGreen (CityScape) and Sutra Yoga (2nd St. & Portland). Unfortunately we did lose one, The Local restaurant (3rd St. & Roosevelt) after a six month run.
Last month, the City of Phoenix won a $1.6 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery federal grant to extend light rail from downtown Phoenix to Baseline Road. Thousands of residents of south Phoenix will reap the benefits of a stronger public transportation system that increases their mobility to other parts of the Valley. This is a big deal and one more important contribution by retiring Representative Ed Pastor.
Seed Spot, the non-profit social entrepreneurial incubator, hosted Maria Contreras-Sweet, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Upon touring the Seed Spot office at Central and Thomas, Contreras-Sweet commended founder Courtney Klein on the group’s achievements, noting “I love the feel. It feels so organic.”
Co+Hoots, a coworking space in downtown Phoenix, has been ranked #8 on a list of the top 75 coworking spaces in the U.S. Symmetry50, a national bookkeeping service for small businesses, compiles the list. Founder Jenny Poon and Co+Hoots Foundation leader Kristin Romaine serve on the DPI Community Advisory Panel.
On the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, Barry Broome and Ioanna Morfessis, respectively the current and past CEOs of GPEC, wrote this Arizona Republic op-ed and noted that downtown is all about what metro Phoenix could be: diversity, creativity, education, and entrepreneurship.
News for a Health, Fitness & Safety Checkup
DPI, Downtown Phoenix Journal, PCA and the Phoenix Suns invite you to attend our third Radiate PHX business and community networking event on Tuesday, October 21 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Verve Lounge at US Airways Center. Topics include updates on sports and fitness initiatives such as “FitPHX” and “Meet Me Downtown,” plus a preview of the Suns basketball season. Guest speakers include Councilman Daniel Valenzuela, chair of the Downtown, Aviation, and Redevelopment Committee; Suns President Jason Rowley; and Ralph Marchetta, vice president of ticket operations and general manager of sports and entertainment services for US Airways Center.
The urban bicycle advocacy group, Phoenix Spokes People, has organized a series of events and activities in “Biketober” to promote the cause of cycling in metro Phoenix.
Thanks to the Arizona Cardinals, Super Bowl Host Committee, and NFL Foundation, the high school football field at the Arizona State University Preparatory Academy received much needed new sod, paint, and scoreboard. ASU Prep, a K-12 school at 7th St. & Fillmore, sits on the site of Montgomery Stadium. The then, 22,000-seat stadium was the largest in Arizona and one of the largest high school arenas in the country.
Students from Phoenix Union Bioscience High School gathered with members of the downtown Phoenix community on September 27 to build a community learning garden as part of the third annual Green Apple Service Day.
On October 4, an estimated 1,500 Garfield neighborhood residents – young, old, and in-between – participated in one of the city’s largest “Getting Arizonans Involved In Neighborhoods” (GAIN) events. Garfield’s unique social mixer and health fair, GAIN-FIESTA, was sponsored by numerous corporate, nonprofit, and educational groups, and organized by dozens of volunteers.
Fall-ing for the Arts
Goodbye summer heat, hello fall not-as-hot weather. What fall also brings is a jam-packed schedule of arts and culture events and activities throughout downtown Phoenix. October’s First Friday was as popular as ever, as evidenced by the 1,000-plus riders on the Artlink Trolley. Large crowds enjoyed Chaos Theory 15 and new this month was the AZ365 pop-up gallery on Roosevelt Row, sponsored by the Arizona Republic and Artlink.
Congratulations to the ASU International Artist Residency Program, located at Combine Studios in downtown Phoenix, for being awarded a $144,000 grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services to commission three new artists from across the globe to develop art projects that engage the public, such as exhibits, lectures, performances, and publications. Greg Esser, director of the program, is a superstar.
Congratulations also to the Ground Cover Public Art Project, sponsored by the City of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture and situated on a vacant lot in downtown Phoenix, for receiving a first place award in Arizona Forward’s 34th Annual Environmental Excellence Awards.
Phoenix was one of more than 300 cities chosen to participate in a 10-day global film festival late last month and early this month. The Manhattan Short Film Festival is an annual showing of international, independently produced short films. Ten finalists were selected by an international panel of experts.
Let’s note the life and passing of Patrick Anthony Lawlor, age 94, the last of the core group to build a place for Arizona’s Irish families to gather, the Irish Cultural Center at Margaret T. Hance Park. According to Mary Moriarty, the Center’s operations manager, Patrick was the patriarch of the local Irish community, having been involved in its formation for 60 years. “Plus he was the gentlest and nicest little man you would ever want to meet.”
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
AZ Blood Donors Help Kids Like Madison with Video Link: (Madison’s story)
Did you know . . . It takes 500 donors of all blood types to maintain Arizona’s blood supply for just one day. Fall blood donors help kids like Madison, who is alive today because of more than 148 blood donors. The Arizona 7-year-old was born with Diamond Blackfan Anemia, a rare disease that prevents her body from producing red blood cells. She relies on the kindness of strangers to provide lifesaving blood transfusions about every three weeks at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. “Blood donors deserve medals for their lifesaving actions,” said her mom, Aimee. “I am so thankful for people who donate regularly because they understand the need for transfusions is constant.” To make an appointment to Find the Hero in You, call 1-877-UBS-HERO (1-877-827-4376) or visit www.BloodHero.com (enter your city or zip code).
All blood types are needed, however, Type O-negative is always in greatest demand.
Tues. & Wed. 10am-7pm, Thurs. 10am-5pm and Fri. & Sat. 7am-2pm
Phoenix Donor Center: 5757 N. Black Canyon Hwy. (Bethany Home Rd. & I-17)
PHOENIX PUBLIC BLOOD DRIVES BY CITY THROUGH NOV. 15
- 85003 – Downtown Phoenix
Wed, Oct 15, 9am-2pm, Wells Fargo Plaza, 100 W Washington, Bloodmobile
Tue, Oct 28, 8:30am-2:30:PM, Phoenix City Hall, 200 W Washington, Assembly Rooms A/B
Wed, Oct 29, 8:30am-2:30:PM, Phoenix City Hall, 200 W Washington, Assembly Rooms A/B
Thu, Oct 30, 8:30am-2:30:PM, Phoenix City Hall, 200 W Washington, Assembly Rooms A/B
Thu, Oct 30, 7am-11:30:AM, Banner Good Samaritan Medical Ctr, 1111 E McDowell Rd, Sandstone Conf Rm
Thu, Oct 30, 12pm-4pm, Banner Good Samaritan Medical Ctr, 1111 E McDowell Rd, Sandstone Conf Rm
Mon Nov 10, 3:30pm-7:30pm, YMCA Downtown, 350 N 1st Ave, East Lobby
- 85012 – Central Phoenix
Wed, Oct 22, 9am-1:30:PM, 4041 Central Plaza, 4041 N Central, Bloodmobile
Wed, Oct 22, 8:30am-1pm, Phoenix Plaza, 2929 N Central Ave, Bloodmobile
Wed, Oct 22, 6:300m-3:30:PM, Phoenix VA Healthcare System, 650 E Indian School Rd, Ambulatory Care Basement
Thu, Oct 30, 10am-2pm, SW Behavioral Health Services, 3450 N 3rd St, Bloodmobile on Mitchell Rd
Sun Nov 9, 8:30am-12:30pm, First United Methodist Church, 5510 N Central, Bus
- 85013 – Central Phoenix
Thu, Oct 23, 10am-3pm, Donor Network of Arizona, 201 W Coolidge, Training Room
Tue Nov 4, 8am-12pm, Girls Leadership Academy of Arizona, 715 W Mariposa, Bus
Wed Nov 5, 9:30am-2:30pm, Phoenix College, 1202 W Thomas Rd, Freshman Square
Image courtesy of United Blood Services Arizona.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
ARIZONA CLAY ASSOCIATION PRESENTS 24th ANNUAL EMPTY BOWLS EVENT
Proceeds benefit Waste Not
WHAT: In honor of World Food Day on October 16, the Arizona Clay Association is presenting the 24th annual Empty Bowls event to raise money for Waste Not, an agency that feeds the Valley’s hungry men, women and children.
COST/HOW: For a minimum $12 donation, patrons select their own unique, handcrafted ceramic bowl from thousands of beautiful bowls made by friends and members of Arizona Clay Association from clay donated by Marjon Ceramics and Laguna Clay. The bowl is then filled with a lunch donated by Canyon Café. Patrons keep the commemorative bowl as a reminder that someone else’s bowl is always empty.
BOUTIQUE: A boutique will feature many one-of-a-kind pieces of ceramic art, for sale in addition to the regular $12 bowls.
WHEN/WHERE: Friday, October 17, at Arizona Center, 400 East Van Buren, 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
ABOUT WASTE NOT: Proceeds from the event benefit Waste Not, a non-profit organization that collects more than 2 million pounds of excess perishable food annually from restaurants, resorts, caterers and various food purveyors and delivers it to more than 100 recipient agency partners including shelters, senior programs, transition homes, day care centers and after school programs. Over the past twenty-three years, this Empty Bowls event has raised more than $500,000 for Waste Not. Arizona Clay, which has more than 200 ceramic artists as members, is the organizer of the Arizona Center event. Their members conduct year-round bowl-making sessions with students, friends and community groups in an effort to provide the 3,000 clay bowls needed for this event.
Images courtesy of Arizona Clay Association.
Diversity with local relevance is a prime goal for nonprofit arts organizations, and Arizona Opera hopes to pique interest in its forthcoming mariachi opera and expand multicultural outreach with this week’s Hispanic Heritage Festival.
“The whole purpose of the Festival,” says Arizona Opera Education Manager Joshua Borths, “is to bring together the Hispanic audiences who haven’t necessarily been to the opera before, and expose our opera audiences to this incredible world of mariachi music and cultural richness.”
The Festival begins with Monday’s panel discussion on immigration and the arts at Arizona Opera Center, kicking off a week of events leading up to the weekend’s season-opening performances of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon). Along with moderator Daniel Buckley — a composer, journalist, historian, documentary filmmaker, photographer, and Governor’s Arts Award winner — the roster of illustrious participants includes playwright, journalist, and policy strategist James Garcia and Arizona State University Vice Provost and Professor of History Eduardo Pagán. The third member of the panel is Shoshana Tancer, a highly respected immigration attorney and professor emeritus at Thunderbird School of Global Management. Tancer’s background comprises extensive work in Latin America as well as longtime advocacy for the arts.
“It’s kind of funny because someone said, ‘Yeah, a member of your Opera board should be on that panel,’” says Borths. “I started talking to her [Tancer] and learning more about her life … understanding arts, and understanding all of the complex issues that surround immigration.” He adds, “We’re lucky to have her involved. It’s a really interesting, diverse group of people.”
Tuesday night offers a lecture-demonstration on mariachi history and conventions by retired ASU musicology professor Richard Haefer and his ensemble Mariachi Corazon de Phoenix. The Opera Center transforms itself into a mercado for the Cultural Exchange on October 8, becoming a marketplace. “We’re going to have food trucks, throw open the garage doors,” says Borths. “Mariachi is booked from 6-9, local arts and crafts, and even a guest appearance by Alan Ponce, the runner-up on La Voz, The Voice in Mexico.”
Hundreds of schoolchildren will converge on Symphony Hall Thursday evening to attend the mariachi opera’s final dress rehearsal on Student Night, and Saturday afternoon the Festival concludes its Phoenix events with a showcase of Hispanic art at the Opera Center — “We’ll have some fine art projects and we’ll be showing some Hispanic films,” explains Borths. Opera-goers will also find local mariachi groups playing outside Symphony Hall before each performance, along with the option of informal pre- and post-show lectures.
The Festival’s centerpiece, Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, premiered at Houston Grand Opera in 2010 and continued on to the venerable Théâtre du Châtelet of Paris. The opera was created by director and writer Leonard Foglia and José “Pepe” Martínez, who served as music director for Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán from 1975 until his retirement earlier this year. The music reflects Martínez’s signature of rapid violin ricochets and the mariachi styles of ranchera and boleros. Martínez was also influenced by his appreciation for Beethoven and for the 20th-century classical Mexican composer José Pablo Moncayo, who wrote the famously rhythmic Huapango and the opera La mulata de Córdoba.
Martínez and Foglia wove 15 songs into a brisk, emotionally potent 80-minute opera without intermission, using flashbacks to tell a multi-generational story of immigration between Mexico and America. They also use the metaphor of monarch butterfly migration, says Mariachi Vargas violinist José “Pepe” Martínez Perez, Jr., the composer’s son. Speaking through interpreter and assistant manager Ivan Leony, he continues, “They travel for a better situation, a better place, like the butterflies … a lot of them die. That’s like the immigrants … some of them make it; some of them don’t.” Leony adds, “Of course our group has never been — and probably will never be — political. We do it because of the music.”
Arizona Opera’s production of Cruzar la Cara de la Luna features the original cast including Mariachi Vargas, which was founded in 1898 and gained even wider recognition by releasing a popular album with Linda Ronstadt — it’s one of more than 200 recordings from the venerable Mexico City-based ensemble.
“The piece is scored for mariachi and vocalists,” says Arizona Opera General Director Ryan Taylor, “so the band appears onstage and serves as orchestra and chorus, and then the vocalists and dance troupe tell the story in operatic fashion in front of them, so they’re all onstage all the time.”
“There are opera singers who have spent time studying the technique of mariachi vocalists because they have such stamina and such power in their delivery,” Taylor continues, “and there are also mariachi vocalists who have looked to the way that the original musical theater and opera singers performed … without amplification.” He adds, “They’ve really sort of fed off of one another in their development in a cool kind of way.”
Pepe Jr. will lead the upcoming performances somewhat like a concertmaster leading a chamber orchestra, with the trumpets, violins, and rhythm section of Mariachi Vargas arrayed across the back of the stage. Dancers perform downstage with the soloists, including classically trained baritones Octavio Moreno and Brian Shircliffe, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte, soprano Brittany Wheeler, and tenor David Guzman. Spare, minimal sets and lighting suggest vast desert landscapes interspersed with a few indoor scenes.
“Since of course it talks about the undocumented immigrants crossing over,” says Pepe Jr., “it’s very touching and you see a lot of people teary and sad as they leave the performance hall with an open heart, but also fascinated with how the story of an immigrant family could be such a good opera.”
If you go:
Hispanic Heritage Festival (all listed events take place in downtown Phoenix):
- The Borders of Understanding
- Mon., Oct. 6 at 6 p.m. at Arizona Opera Center, 1636 N. Central Ave.
- Three-person panel participates in guided conversation about immigration and the arts
- Mariachi: The Passion and Pulse of a People
- The Cultural Exchange
- Student Night at the Opera
- Connecting the Dots: A Demonstration of Hispanic Art
- Sat., Oct. 11, 12 p.m.-2 p.m. at Arizona Opera Center
- Watch old movies from Mexico and participate in Hispanic art projects and demonstrations
by José “Pepe” Martínez and Leonard Foglia
(sung in Spanish and English with English supertitles)
- Symphony Hall, 75 N. Second St., downtown Phoenix:
- Fri., Oct. 10 at 7:30 p.m.
- Sat., Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m.
- Sun., Oct. 12 at 2 p.m.
- Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave., Tucson
- Sat., Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
- Sun., Oct. 19 at 2 p.m.
- All performances feature:
- Local mariachi performances outside the venue
- Informal lectures before and after each performance