Local First Arizona
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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“I picture myself with my hands on the butt of an elephant.”
Kimber Lanning wears several hats. She is owner of Stinkweeds, an independently owned and operated music store and website, physically located at Central Ave. and Camelback. She is also the executive director and driving force behind Local First Arizona, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting and celebrating locally owned businesses throughout Arizona. A former board member of Roosevelt Row, she most recently was named to the board of Downtown Phoenix, Inc. by Mayor Greg Stanton.
The first challenge to interviewing Kimber is finding a sliver of time when she’s not busy doing at least three things at once. We managed to pin her down for an hour at Stinkweeds, and she gave us a peek inside her thoughtful and highly practical perspective on how to stimulate and sustain a vibrant downtown. We sat with her on the floor while she sorted a huge collection of used records she’d just received from a single collector. As she sorted and priced the vinyl, we listened.
Kimber’s dad was transferred from Okinawa, Japan, where she was born to Luke AFB when she was just nine months old. She and her brothers grew up on Min Takaguchi’s farm at 59th Avenue and Northern. Her earliest memories of downtown Phoenix are of going to concerts at Veterans Memorial Museum and to Suns games; a field trip to Shamrock Farms, where she got to eat ice cream in a little cup with a wooden spoon; and her “best of memory of all,” a 2nd grade trip to the Phoenix Art Museum to see the Alexander Calder exhibit. For years after she made mobiles (with the help of her dad) for everyone she knew.
“Suddenly then-mayor Skip Rimza threw open the door and pointed at me. ‘You!’ he said, ‘I’m giving you 10 minutes to get this organized.”
Her earliest involvement with downtown came as a musician, playing drums at Metropophobia and Peter Petrisko’s Gallery X. In 1999, she opened Modified Arts in the old Metropophobia space on Roosevelt and it was at this point, she says, “my whole life changed.” Soon after, she heard rumblings about the potential of a new arena being built in that area and she decided to go to a City Council meeting to listen and learn.
“I showed up to the City Council meeting, not really knowing what to expect.” When she got there, the arts community was outside artfully protesting. “Suddenly then-mayor Skip Rimza threw open the door and pointed at me. ‘You!’ he said, ‘I’m giving you 10 minutes to get this organized.’”
That was the beginning of her downtown activism.
She believes that the most significant changes in the last decade have been adaptive reuse policy changes. Mayor Gordon put her on the Development Advisory Board, and it was at that table that she began to learn the details of building codes and to understand what policies were making it difficult for small businesses to succeed. It was there she began to formulate strategies for how to make the changes that needed to be made.
“It was hard to see from the outside, but one of the biggest problems was that the Development Services Department back then was all cost recovery, which meant they had to balance their budget with fees and whatnot. That created an entire culture at the city. Because of the need to balance their budget, they loved big huge developments – it’s easier at the counter because it’s new construction and brings in more fees.” (Since that time, Development Services has been blended into the Planning Department. There are still some cost recovery elements.)
But that need to balance their budget made it nearly impossible for the small business owner to succeed.
We need to create more touch points for visitors and get more creative about connecting people to everything going on downtown.”
“In comes the guy with the wine bar in an old house,” she went on. “What are the staff thinking? ‘He’s not bringing in fees, he’s taking all our time, and we can’t balance our budget. If we can’t balance our budget it will mean layoffs.’ So, wine bar guy means layoffs. You can’t see it from the outside, but once you understand it, you can apply pressure to make changes, draw attention to the flaws in the system, and develop strategies.”
It takes time to get under the surface and understand how a policy might have unintended consequences that can squelch growth. It takes patience to find the root, and to make the necessary changes. As Kimber puts it, “I picture myself with my hands on the butt of an elephant.” She has persevered indeed, and last fall, in recognition of what she’s accomplished, she was awarded the Distinguished Citizen Planner award from the Arizona Chapter of the American Planning Association.
For Kimber, Downtown Phoenix, Inc., is significant because it represents the first time that large and small institutions are being incorporated together to plan the future of the city. She sees her role on the DPI board as an opportunity to “underscore the not-so-obvious connections between the fine-grain, place-making stuff, and economic development.”
“To continue to grow the vibrancy of downtown,” she said, “it is critical to find ways to connect downtown to the people who work there but do not live there. We need to create more touch points for visitors and get more creative about connecting people to everything going on downtown.”
When asked what she thinks people do not know about downtown Phoenix that they should, she answered, “Twenty years from now people will look back on this as the era of the entrepreneur. Right now, we’re in it.”
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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.
One of the best ways to revel in the season is at Local First Arizona’s Certified Local Fall Festival. In its ninth year, the festival continues the tradition of connecting the community with the local businesses that make Arizona special.
According to Erica Pedersen of Local First Arizona (LFA), the largest alliance of independent businesses in the country, “the Certified Local Fall Festival celebrates everything local to Arizona, and brings the community together in a unique environment that draws attention to the importance of the Buy Local movement in Arizona.”
The Certified Local festivities take place this Saturday, November 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in downtown Phoenix on Portland Parkway, located at 10 W. Portland St. This is the second year the festival has taken place in its downtown location, which is conveniently adjacent to the Roosevelt and Central light rail station.
You’ll find food, drinks, entertainment and shopping from much-loved local businesses like Postino Wine Cafe, Short Leash Hot Dogs, Zia Records and Bunky Boutique. Plus, you’ll likely find a few new favorites along the way from among the over 100 participating businesses.
This family-friendly event will have plenty to keep the kiddos happy, including a bounce house, arts and crafts and face painting. And well-behaved pooches are invited, too!
The festival is free to attend and food and drink tickets are $1 each. To sweeten the deal a bit more, the first 500 attendees at the festival will receive a gift bag filled with goodies donated by LFA businesses.
New to this year’s event is an online silent auction. All items were donated by LFA members and include things like staycation packages from around Arizona, spa and beauty packages, local art and sports memorabilia. Bidding is currently underway and wraps up on Saturday at 3pm. Check out items and register to bid online.
“We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community for this annual event,” says Kimber Lanning, Director of Local First Arizona. “When we first started nine years ago, it was just 25 vendors and several hundred attendees, and now it’s grown into an integral community event. This shows that each year, more and more people are making the connection between our communities’ well being and the strength of our local businesses.”
If you go
When: Saturday, November 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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Local First Arizona Celebrates Locally Owned Businesses During National Independents Week
In recognition of National Independents Week, Local First Arizona will honor locally owned and independent businesses across the state from Sunday, June 30, through Sunday, July 7. The nationwide Independents Week campaign, coordinated by the American Independent Business Alliance and known as “Indie Week,” takes place during the week of Independence Day with the purpose of enlightening consumers to the importance of supporting local businesses.
Final plans for the 2013 Independents Week campaign organized by Local First Arizona have been announced and will include the following:
Pledge and win! Arizonans are encouraged to “Take the Pledge” to shop local during Indie Week. Anyone can take the pledge by visiting www.LocalFirstAZ.com/Independents-Week. Those who pledge to shop local during Indie Week will automatically be entered into a contest to win a fantastic staycation! The staycation package includes a one night stay at the Noftsger Hill Inn Bed and Breakfast in Globe and a meal at A Step Back in Time Coffee & Deli in nearby Safford.
Save! The popular Golden Coupon is the ticket to saving 20% off purchases from local Arizona businesses. A list of participating businesses can be found by clicking here (businesses will be continually added through the month of June). Shoppers and diners can simply print out the Golden Coupon from the LFA website or pull it up on their smartphone and use it at as many participating locations as they please (some restrictions may apply). Some participating businesses include Pillsbury Wine Company, Frances Vintage, Urban Cookies, Sole Sports Running Zone, Desert Song Yoga, Noble Beast Natural Market for Pets, House of Tricks, Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch, The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures, and many more!
Have fun! Several events will take place across the state during Independents Week to celebrate our local businesses with community members. Events include a pub crawl on Mill Avenue in Tempe; a film screening at The Loft in Tucson, a First Friday Party in Phoenix, and a beer dinner in Tucson presented by Food Conspiracy Co-op and Dragoon Brewing.
“Independents Week is especially important in Arizona during the slow summer months for many of our local business owners,” says Kimber Lanning, Director of Local First Arizona. “When we spend our dollars at local businesses, up to four times more money stays and circulates in the local economy, supporting local jobs, services, and communities. Our hope is that consumers will learn about the value of supporting local businesses during Indie Week, and then continue to support our independent businesses far beyond our weeklong celebration.”