DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
Roosevelt Row CDC Receives Significant 2014 ArtPlace Grant for Creative Placemaking
An innovative new model for affordable artist live/work spaces will be coming soon to Roosevelt Row thanks to ArtPlace America. Today, ArtPlace announced Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation (CDC) as one of 55 national grantees to receive significant funding to support the nationally-recognized artists’ district. Roosevelt Row CDC will receive $90,000 to support a creative placemaking shipping container pilot project, addressing the ongoing need for permanent affordable housing for artists in downtown Phoenix.
“Thanks to ArtPlace, we are once again demonstrating the huge impact that an artist-driven district can have in fostering a healthy, vibrant downtown community,” said Vermon Pierre, Board President of Roosevelt Row CDC. “This project is exactly what Phoenix needs to further support the critical role of artists in our urban core.”
The shipping container pilot project is one step towards a broader portfolio to make Phoenix a more artist-friendly community. The project will consist of renovated and refurbished containers, providing permanent creative spaces where downtown artists can create and exhibit their work to the community while also providing an affordable place to call home in the heart of Roosevelt Row. The containers will also offer street-level activation through storefront gallery spaces. This project supports Roosevelt Row CDC’s mission to create a livable, walkable vibrant arts community through collaborative and creative efforts that encourage sustainable growth and innovation for future development.
“Investing in and supporting the arts has a profound impact on the social, physical, and economic futures of communities,” said ArtPlace Executive Director Jamie L. Bennett. “Projects like these demonstrate how imaginative and committed people are when it comes to enhancing their communities with creative interventions and thoughtful practices.”
The pilot project will be located in the downtown community along Roosevelt Street as an example of what is possible for future development in the arts community. In addition to building the pilot project, the goals of the effort include making shipping containers, or “cargotecture” more accessible by establishing “open source” plans.
“We’re tremendously excited to take this effort utilizing shipping containers for creative placemaking to the next level, in partnership with the City of Phoenix and other collaborators,” said Greg Esser, artist and co-founder of Roosevelt Row CDC.
Photos courtesy of Roosevelt Row showcasing the Hot Box Gallery opening, grant-funded from their first ArtPlace award.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
eye lounge: a contemporary art space [sic] celebrates 15 years of exhibitions and welcomes new arts venture
In 1999, a group of graduate art students at the Arizona State University School of Art were concerned with the lack of opportunities to exhibit contemporary artwork in Phoenix. In response, they founded eye lounge: a contemporary art space, an artist-run collective dedicated to creating exhibition opportunities for artists. In 2001, the group moved into its permanent location at 419 East Roosevelt Street in a building owned and managed by founding members Greg Esser and Cindy Dach. This year marks the 15-year anniversary for the collective.
Since its founding, the venue has hosted more than 500 one-person and group exhibitions. Many member artists have continued on to representation in commercial galleries in Arizona and nationally and to tenured teaching positions throughout the U.S. eye lounge was a founding gallery of the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation.
Significantly more opportunities exist now for emerging and established artists to exhibit in downtown Phoenix than ever before. “The relocation of Bentley Projects and, more recently, Lisa Sette Gallery from Scottsdale to downtown Phoenix bode well for the maturation of the downtown Phoenix arts scene,” says Dach. “The vibrancy of this area is almost unrecognizable now from where we started.”
In an effort to create new opportunities for incoming artists to establish roots in the Roosevelt Row Artists’ District, eye lounge is reconfiguring its building footprint to welcome a new artist venture into the space. Beginning June 2014, ASU School of Art alum, photographer and educator Stephen Gittins will open his business, Capture 12, in 417 East Roosevelt, the western bay of the building.
“We’re very excited to have Capture 12 join the space,” says Esser. “Capture 12’s classes, workshops and exhibitions will add even more street level activation to this storefront on Roosevelt Street. This area has a strong history of supporting photographers, and this neighborhood, with its murals and authentic ‘funky’ building fabric, has become one of the most photographed areas of Phoenix.”
The new configuration more closely echoes the original purpose of the two individual storefronts built more than 50 years ago. Esser explains, “We’re very fortunate to have met the adults who grew up in each of the buildings that we have renovated in this neighborhood. The Beck family lived in the home which now houses Made Art Boutique. In 1949, when this was a very vibrant pedestrian-focused mixed-use neighborhood, the Beck family built the eastern storefront addition. One year later, they completed the western storefront addition. The family’s son, though he left the area decades ago before it went into decline, now comes back to his old neighborhood to attend First Fridays and purchase artwork and is thrilled with how the area has evolved.”
The parking lot to the west of eye lounge housed a separate craftsman bungalow-style single family home until the late 1960s. Plans are underway to develop additional new artist venues at this location. Events and a publication to mark the 15-year anniversary of eye lounge are currently in development.
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.
“We should always assume that things can be better.”
Cindy Dach wears half a dozen hats at least and has been a key player in the revitalization of the Roosevelt Row area. She is a board member of Downtown Phoenix, Inc.; co-owner and general manager of Changing Hands Bookstore, which is about to open a Phoenix location in Uptown (Camelback Road and 3rd Avenue); owner of Made Art Boutique on Roosevelt and 5th Ave.; co-founder of Eye Lounge, a contemporary artists run collective on Roosevelt Street; co-founder of Arizona Chain Reaction (now Local First Arizona); co-founder and board member of the Roosevelt Row CDC; and one of the driving forces behind the annual Pie Social, the RoRo Chili Festival, and the Feast on the Street, just to name a few.
She and her partner, Greg Esser, moved to Phoenix from Denver in the mid-nineties and immediately set about seeking community. Even finding brunch back in those days was a challenge. “We always ended up at IHop, because there weren’t any other choices,” said Dach. They began taking steps to build the community they craved by creating Eye Lounge, which was originally an artist collective exhibiting at various locations.
After a while, they discovered inexpensive property in a blighted area along Roosevelt Street, and in 2001 they bought a building, rolled up their sleeves and create a permanent gallery for Eye Lounge. In reflecting on that time, Dach said, “Wayne Rainey and Kimber Lanning had begun doing things on Roosevelt then as well. We didn’t originally know each other, but we were all focused on creating a place for the arts and artists, and so we found each other.”
The impact of creating a community for artists and the arts on Roosevelt has been exponential. First Fridays went from a few hundred urban pioneers willing to seek out galleries on Jackson Street, Roosevelt Street and Grand Avenue, and exploded during those early years. Thousands of people now flock to Roosevelt and the area supports several galleries, retail stores, coffee houses, and restaurants.
“We didn’t originally know each another, but we were all focused on creating a place for the arts and artists, and so we found each other.“
Along the way, Dach and her cohorts established the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization to further the unique cultural character and creative assets of the Roosevelt Row Arts District. Fellow Roosevelt Row and Evans Churchill District neighbors worked together to create innovative grassroots community building events, such as the annual Pie Social, and the Chili Festival.
In addition to infusing the area with the arts, Dach and others recognized the negative impact of the empty lots and created A.R.T.S. (Activated Reuse of Temporary Spaces) initiatives to focus on activating these dead spaces. To date these programs have included the creation of a temporary A.R.T.S. Market on First Fridays, the development of the innovative Valley of the Sunflowers project, and support of The Lot: What Should Go Here? Pop Up Park at 2nd Street and Roosevelt.
Dach believes that the development of the ASU Downtown campus and the coming of light rail have been key to the rebirth of the area. “It started with the nursing school. Suddenly you noticed lots of young women with ponytails out and about,” says Dach, laughing. “But as more and more of the schools moved downtown they brought a whole range of young people into the neighborhood,” she continues. “And they are looking for things to do and places to hang out.”
Dach believes that Downtown Phoenix, Inc. can make Phoenix more competitive. “The ratings system for development is good and DPI can help us grow the city in a smarter way.” Her advice for the organization? “DPI needs to allow for diversity in the widest possible sense to participate in change-making.” As she puts it, “We should always assume that things can be better.”
Cindy Dach, along with fellow DPI board members, Kimber Lanning, and Tim Eigo represent a powerful, grassroots movement that has brought a whole new kind of energy and promise to downtown. Their place at the table speaks to the impact they’ve had in creating the community they were seeking all those years ago.
In addition to her commitment to Roosevelt Row, Cindy is a staunch supporter of bringing a great bookstore to central Phoenix. It took eight years for Tempe-based Changing Hands to find the right location and circumstances to open a Phoenix store. Dach is confident that Phoenix can support the venture. “Phoenix is ready for a bookstore, but I think we have some bad habits to break.” She explains, “It’s very obvious and for good reason the Phoenix community has been buying their books online. I hope they don’t experience sticker shock and that they realize that it’s not just the book they are buying at full retail value, they’re buying the experience, they’re buying the store, they’re buying the bookseller who’s going to recommend the book.”
“But as more and more of the schools moved downtown they brought a whole range of young people into the neighborhood. And they are looking for things to do and places to hang out.”
Ultimately, Dach believes that Phoenix is not only ready, but deserves a great bookstore. “Phoenix deserves another great community gathering place; we have some great gathering places, but we’re ready for another model and I think the bookstore could be it.”
When did Dach realize that Phoenix was her place? She says it wasn’t one moment, but a series of little moments. “I remember working on Eye Lounge and going to Portland’s covered in dust and having conversations with people about what downtown needs. I began to feel like maybe I do have a place here. It really was like ‘if you build it they will come.’ I began to feel that I did have a purpose, to be involved, and that it’s fun to be involved.”
Dach believes that one of the most amazing things about Phoenix is the people. You say ‘hey, I have shovels and we need to clear this lot’ and, lo and behold, they show up. Phoenix just wants to know how to help.”
When asked about the possibility of an Enhanceed Municipal Services District for the Roosevelt area, Dach said, “In my head it can be great to see a community being able to take care of itself, because these services just don’t exist now. You can whine and complain and ask for them, but they’re not coming and at the end of the day it’s going to come down to the community having dialogue. What I love about the process we’re about to enter, it’s going to be the best way to engage everyone.”
This morning, the Phoenix City Council Downtown, Aviation and Redevelopment Subcommittee unanimously approved the first step in creating a new Enhanced Municipal Services District (EMSD) in the Roosevelt Row/Evans Churchill community just north of the downtown core.
The subcommittee recommended that the City Council authorize a contract not to exceed $90,000 with Downtown Phoenix, Inc. to create an in-depth study involving extensive outreach to property owners over the next 8-12 months. The money for the study will come out of the Downtown Community Reinvestment Fund, created for just such purposes.
The focus of the study will be to develop the EMSD concept for the area, to determine the boundaries of the new district, to identify the specific services to be covered, to determine the costs, and to create the governance structure for the EMSD. The recommendation will go to the full City Council for approval next week.
Greg Esser, Roosevelt Row CDC co-founder and board member sees the EMSD as a “valuable tool to make a lasting impact in this area.”
What exactly is an EMSD and why is this an exciting development for downtown? In simple terms, it is a public/private partnership that is developed to provide enhanced services to a specific area above and beyond basic city services.
Since 1974, when the first Downtown Development District (in the United States) was formed in New Orleans, more than 1500 districts like these have been created and are reshaping public management across the country. Key to their success is the unique public/private partnership model that generates revenue and provides the collective clout that comes from speaking with one voice.
David Krietor of Downtown Phoenix Inc. spoke in favor of the study at the subcommittee meeting saying, “These (public/private) organizations are tried and true all over the U.S. for promoting vibrant downtowns.”
Different states have different formation models for these entities and they are known by a wide range of buzzy acronyms. The most common catch-all label for them is BID (Business Improvement District). In Arizona, the formation model is called an Enhanced Municipal Service District or EMSD.
In 1990, the first EMSD in Arizona was created in downtown Phoenix. Known as the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, it brought a stable funding stream through a tax assessment on property owners within a 90-block area in downtown. This money paid for the creation of an enhanced security and hospitality program (Downtown Ambassadors), “Clean Team” maintenance, event facilitation, parking and transportation coordination, streetscape and urban design, and marketing for events. It brought focus, investment, people, and business into downtown. While this successful EMSD was improving the downtown core, something remarkable began happening just beyond its borders. The Roosevelt Row arts district was coming to life.
Just over a dozen years ago, artists, arts entrepreneurs and urban pioneers began creating and nurturing a thriving, vibrant arts district along Roosevelt Row in the historic Evans Churchill neighborhood. Over the last decade, these intrepid dreamers, including Kimber Lanning, Wayne Rainey, Greg Esser, Cindy Dach, Carla Wade, Kevin Rille, Vermon Pierre and a host of others have been building their ties, engaging with their neighbors, developing innovative partnerships, creating “must attend” events, and gaining national recognition as one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in our city.
In 2012, the neighborhood was granted a prestigious ArtsPlace Award to undertake a visioning process to create an even more vibrant, healthy community in the Roosevelt/Evans Churchill neighborhood. Out of this in-depth process, involving dozens of public meetings, events, surveys, and one-on-one conversations with residents, business owners, and visitors, the neighborhood developed a vision for the area that included the key element of creating this new EMSD.
Kevin Rille, president of the Evans Churchill Community Association, who was a key participant in this visioning process said, “We have a dynamic and engaged group, and this has been an incredibly inclusive visioning process.”
Vermon Pierre, president of the Roosevelt Row CDC added, “Piggy-backing on what Kevin said, we’re proud of the unique character of the area, and this study will assess the level of interest in owning and developing our part of the city.”
This new vision for a Roosevelt Row Artists’ District was introduced to the public at a launch party at The Nash on February 20, 2014.
From the beginning, the successful activation of the Roosevelt Row/Evans Churchill neighborhood has been based on the dedicated work of committed volunteers. The creation of the new EMSD will bring in revenue and create a professional organization to take their success to the next level. Approval of this study will be an important step forward for the neighborhood, and an even more important step for the overall growth and vibrancy of downtown Phoenix.
Editor’s Note: The original title of this story did not include Evans Churchill. This oversight has been corrected.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
LOCAL FIRST ARIZONA HOSTS FREE INFORMATIONAL MEETING ON INFILL AND ADAPTIVE REUSE IN PHOENIX
Attendees will learn about the City of Phoenix process to redevelop buildings for a new purpose
WHAT: Infill and Adaptive Reuse in Phoenix—Join Local First Arizona and the City of Phoenix for a free informative meeting and discussion that will cover the City of Phoenix’s process for infill and adaptive reuse development. The meeting will include a panel of experts on adaptive reuse who will talk about their experiences and who have already gone through the process. The conversation will focus on both commercial and residential infill, and a list of 6-8 available properties for infill projects will be available.
WHO: Local First Arizona (LFA), a statewide nonprofit organization working to strengthen communities and local economies through supporting at celebrating local businesses, is hosting this seminar in partnership with the City of Phoenix. LFA Director Kimber Lanning will lead a discussion with a panel who will talk about their experiences with adaptive reuse in Phoenix. Panelists include Leslie Casañares-Lindo of Project Rising, Cavin Costello of Ranch Mine, and Greg Esser of the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation. This event is open to anyone who would like to learn about the commercial or residential infill and adaptive reuse process with the City of Phoenix
WHY: This meeting is the third in a series of five workshops in partnership with the City of Phoenix’s Reinvent Phoenix program. These workshops educate the public about the community benefits of infill and adaptive reuse projects and to inform them about the City of Phoenix process for embarking on an infill and adaptive reuse project. With a focus on inward development rather than outward sprawl, buildings that currently sit vacant will be repurposed in the center of Phoenix will be repurposed to house a new retail, restaurant, or service business, or a residential building, which will contribute to the overall economic sustainability and viability of the community.
WHERE: Playhouse at the Park inside the VIAD Corporate Building, 1850 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85004.
COST: Open to the public and free to attend.